The phone rings. An agency is on the other line to tell us they just faxed a new referral. They wanted to make sure we received it. And, they wanted to tell us that the woman was homeless, living in the garage of an abandoned house. And, she is 9 months pregnant.
Pregnancy comes with enough challenges of its own. When you add to that the lack of adequate and safe housing, it takes the pregnancy experience from being exciting, but challenging, to dangerous and terrifying. A pregnant woman facing homelessness lives and breathes a toxic kind of stress, in an environment that can have lifelong negative health consequences for both her and her unborn child.
We know how crucial every day, every month of a woman’s pregnancy is to her and her baby’s health and future. For years, Step By Step recognized the need to provide safe housing for some of our most vulnerable clients. In 2009, we started our housing program to provide transitional housing for moms who needed help to get back on their feet again.
To say that a housing program is difficult to manage is an understatement. The need always outweighs the supply. In our world, all of our housing clients are high risk with poor credit. Every unit is a liability. We’ve spent more money and time cleaning, repairing, painting, and paying damages than we’d like to acknowledge. We constantly strive to keep our moms moving in the right direction, to educate and teach and counsel them, so they will progress, and so they can make smarter and healthier decisions in the future.
Why do we take on this physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting work? We do it because we care passionately about mothers and their babies. We want to see our moms and babies, and ultimately our families and communities, become stronger and healthier.
And, we do it because it works. Housing can help a mom accomplish in a few months, what it might take years for her to do on her own.
We do it for moms like Alexandrea and Rachel. Alexandrea was 25 years old when she was referred to us. Married for five years, she never expected to one day find herself homeless and pregnant. Two months after entering our housing program, she earned her GED and successfully quit smoking. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She is currently working full time and plans to attend school in the fall for a medical assisting program. She says the housing program gave her peace of mind and the freedom and independence to work on her goals.
Rachel was referred to us from New Beginnings, when she needed a safe place to stay after her baby was born. She is thankful for Step By Step helping to “keep her head above water” while she worked on her relationship with the baby’s father and made progress towards her own self sustainability. She is now working at a day care full time, where she can bring her son with her. Her baby’s father proposed in March, and they will be married in July. Rachel dreams of one day owning her own bakery.
Pictured: Robyn plays with one of the babies from the housing program. Robyn has been working with Step By Step, providing maternity support and case management for moms and their babies, for over 16 years. She serves as the Housing Coordinator to help moms transition successfully out of homelessness.
Our transitional housing program provides the opportunity for moms to focus on their goals of education and employment. We provide a safe and stable environment, so they can work towards a better future for themselves and their children.
We are so thankful for the staff, board members, volunteers, and generous donors who continue to fight to make our housing program possible. We know that sometimes the work is tiring and disheartening. But, it is stories like these that keep us going. We know we are making a lasting difference in the lives of many, and providing safer and healthier futures for moms, babies, and generations to come
Destiny had been through more than one abortion before. But, when her previous pregnancy ended in an abortion at five months along, Destiny made the decision that if she became pregnant again, she would choose to parent.
So, when Destiny later found out she was pregnant, she immediately planned to keep the baby. However, the father of the baby disagreed and pressured her to have another abortion. When she refused, he left her. Pregnant, with little support and no job, Destiny had few options. With nowhere to go, Destiny began couch surfing, moving from place to place with different family and friends.
Pronounced stress, about how and where she would live after her baby was born, began to take its toll. Destiny's doctor was concerned about her level of stress and how it might negatively impact her pregnancy. In her search to find help with housing, Destiny contacted Pierce County’s Access Point, who gave her information and referred her to Step By Step
Destiny called Step By Step and, though the housing program was full at the time, she accepted maternity support services for her pregnancy. Robyn, her assigned case manager, began meeting with her to provide support and counseling and to help her plan and prepare for motherhood. Robyn helped Destiny enroll in parenting classes and helped her connect with the Reach Center, where she enrolled to work on obtaining her GED.
Not long after her baby was born, a space opened up in Step By Step’s housing program, and Destiny was able to move into her own apartment. Having stable housing has helped Destiny to regain her self-esteem and become more confident.
Destiny and her baby are doing well. She is working on finishing her High School completion program, and she is working part time as a hotel receptionist. Destiny hopes to eventually enroll in the cosmetology program at Clover Park and would like to study business at TCC.
Yesenia came to Step By Step early on in her pregnancy. Referred by a pregnancy center as a victim of domestic violence, Yesenia's case manager described her as shy and unsure of herself.
An illegal immigrant, Yesenia was brought to the United States by her family when she was just four years old. She was living with the father of her baby and his family, when she found out she was pregnant, but she had been suffering for years. Her partner was verbally abusive, possessive, and controlling, even threatening to have her deported and sent back to Mexico. Yesenia was constantly put down and never felt like she was good enough.
Now, pregnant with nowhere to go, she knew she needed help. She was desperate to find a safe place, where she could raise her baby in a healthy and positive environment.
Yesenia's case manager referred her to Step By Step’s housing program, and she was offered a placement. This not only gave her a way to escape the abusive family she had been staying with, but also afforded her a safe and stable environment, where she could build her self esteem and work on her goals.
Yesenia dreamed of going to school, finding a job, and obtaining legal citizenship, so she could provide a future for herself and her son. Her Step By Step case manager helped her navigate the process of applying for citizenship, and she was able to obtain her social security number and full legal citizenship. Yesenia has taken advantage of every opportunity given to her. She attended positive parenting classes and life skills classes including budgeting, cooking, and nutrition. She also found a job and maintained employment throughout her time in the program.
We are so proud of the progress Yesenia has made as a person and as a mom. She continues to work hard and has a beautiful, happy baby boy. She has now transitioned to her own apartment, and is successfully working and providing for herself and her son.
Yesenia is thankful for what Step By Step has helped her to accomplish, and she has hope for her future and the future of her son
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