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After being homeless while pregnant, my baby is a miracle but nobody should go through that
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After being homeless while pregnant, my baby is a miracle but nobody should go through that

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Micah is a miracle baby. Three years ago, my daughter, Moriah, passed away shortly after her birth. Moriah had a chromosome disease and most babies with that disease don’t make it, but the whole time I was pregnant with her, I had in the back of my mind that she was going to be okay.

After she was born, I stayed with her in the NICU for three weeks, not showering and barely eating.

When she passed away, I worried that I would never have a baby that would survive. So, Micah is a miracle.

But he was also a miracle because I lost my housing — and nearly lost him — while I was pregnant. Micah’s dad and I were living in an apartment in Indianapolis. I helped make ends meet working at a fast-food chain. Burglaries began happening at the apartment and on two occasions someone kicked in our door.

During one of the burglaries, our television was stolen. It got so bad that the management told me I had to move because they didn’t want to find me dead, and due to this chaos, the landlord sold the property.

But there was no place I could afford to go.

Pregnant with my son, I stayed with friends because local shelters were full. When the welcome wore out, I slept in cars, abandoned houses and even on a bench. I once stayed in a car when it was five below zero. I tried to fill up on the free food at work because I didn’t know when I was going to eat next. There were some days I didn’t get much to eat at all.

It was a scary thing to be out there — pregnant and homeless.

New research shows just how important stable housing is to give our children the best possible start in life.

One recent study found a “persistent, strong effect” of homelessness on pregnant women, putting them at risk of preterm birth or hemorrhage. Another found that pregnant women in unstable housing were more likely to have a long hospital stay and visit the emergency room within three months of birth. Still, another found that babies born to women with severe housing insecurity were more likely to stay in the NICU, even after controlling for other factors.

While I was homeless and pregnant with Micah, I was in and out of the hospital with contractions.

On the day I gave birth, he came out and stopped breathing and had to stay in the NICU. Since his birth, he has had his fair share of hospital stays and health issues. His life is a miracle.

Because of experiences like mine, the Grassroots MCH Initiative has joined the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign to advocate for solutions to homelessness including:

— Providing emergency shelters and housing assistance to help families in crisis,

— Making sure eligible families can get rental assistance, and increasing the supply of affordable housing. These strategies are essential to ending the problem of homelessness.

I am not alone in the struggle to find a safe, affordable place to live and raise my baby. I have been on the HUD waiting list for over a year. Only one in four households who qualify for housing assistance receives it because Congress has not provided enough funding to meet the need.

Meanwhile, there are only 37 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renters in Indiana. This means millions of families like mine — people of color, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, low-wage workers—cannot afford a decent, safe place to live and could be just one hiccup away from falling behind on their rent, being evicted and becoming homeless.

I see them on the streets more and more these days and all I can think to do is lift my voice. I have been in their shoes. Guaranteeing housing assistance and building and preserving more affordable homes will have a positive impact on expecting mothers, allowing them to give birth to healthy babies.

It will prevent long-term health problems and promote healthy, productive lives. It will set people up for success.

Housing is essential. I am grateful I received help to find a stable place to live. I am grateful to have my miracle baby. But no woman should have to go through what I have survived. And by sharing my story, I hope that no more women will.

Latisha Bolden lives in Indianapolis with her son, Micah. She is a Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Leader with the Grassroots MCH Initiative at IU Fairbanks School of Public Health.

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