This research came out of concerns expressed by senior staff at Launch Housing and the Royal Women’s Hospital that pregnant homeless women are not receiving the level of support warranted given their circumstances and that of their unborn child.
This report outlines the perspectives of 14 women who have had recent experiences of pregnancy and homelessness. The research received approval from the Human Research Ethics Committees of RMIT University, La Trobe University and Launch Housing, and was overseen by a reference group with specialist expertise in the area of pregnancy and homelessness.
The women had experienced the breadth of living arrangements including rough sleeping, sleeping in cars, motels, couch surfing, shared houses, rooming houses, crisis accommodation, emergency accommodation, youth refuges, specialist young women’s refuges, specialist women’s family violence refuges, residential drug detoxification and rehabilitation facilities, prison, community housing and public housing. Twelve of the women had experienced hazardous accommodation during pregnancy. While at the time of interview most women were living in relatively stable accommodation, only four had secured suitable long-term housing.
Pregnancy did not necessarily afford the women greater access to housing support or secure accommodation. The research found that, without these basic needs of shelter and stability met, it was very difficult for the pregnant homeless women to prepare for motherhood practically, physically and emotionally, with negative consequences for the mother and baby. While the participants described positive relationships with staff from homelessness, housing and health services and examples of interventions which provided timely support, there was also evidence that some parts of the housing and homelessness service systems did not prioritise the needs of this group of women and it is a neglected area of practice.