At our May Community Meeting, Homes for Families honored mother figures and recognized the layered health challenges faced by the many mother-led families within the EA system. Mental and emotional health and well being is an important aspect of health for any mother whether in shelter or not. Being a mom, and a new mom especially, can be utterly exhausting and is a lot of work. This, coupled with even the most supportive of shelter settings, is going to have its added challenges.
It’s not surprising that the majority of parents within EA say that their stress level increased since entering EA shelter (see image below). For a link to the full report that this data point came from click here.
Our network of programs, families and allies all want families and moms to succeed. We want to create the supports mothers need to be emotionally and physically well. EA shelters provide an incredibly vital service and staff and families work hard every day to foster stability and opportunity. However, practices and policies can get in the way. Participants at community meeting named a number of punitive and unhelpful practices that hinder rather than facilitate moms’ success. Lack of flexibility around: chores where a pregnant woman can be required to mop floors in the late evening; not being able to leave your children unattended; and lack of access to transportation to get to and from appointments, for the parent, are just some examples.
There is opportunity to assess how policies and practices can be implemented through a more trauma informed and whole-family lens and for seeing each child’s success as inextricably tied to their primary caretaker’s ability to get their emotional, mental and physical needs met. Given that families experiencing homelessness are disproportionately people of color, we must continue to acknowledge and dismantle structures that systematically disadvantage people of color, women, and families with low incomes. As one Community Meeting participant said: “If middle class white people were subjected to this [unreasonable policies], they would have changed a long time ago.”
If you want to take action right now towards improving the policies that impact families in shelter, check out our most recent state budget-related blog post!
At Community Meeting, we began with notes to our mother-figures and so we will end here with some of those beautiful messages: