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Fighting against the odds of being born into homelessness

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Posted at 1:38 PM, Sep 20, 2022

More than 1.2 million children in the U.S. are considered homeless.

Zameita McAfee knows what it's like to be homeless. When she first learned she was pregnant, she was jobless and scared.

“Honestly, I was at the end of my rope," she said.

During the first weeks of pregnancy, McAfee attempted to take her own life.

“When the ambulance people were there bringing me back to life and I was fighting them, like, 'Who told you to do this?” McAfee said.

McAfee said she's now in a different place, mentally, emotionally and physically, because of Haven of Grace.

It's one of hundreds of shelters around the country that offer special services for expectant moms.

“Can you imagine being pregnant and not and having to worry about your food, your shelter? And so, we want to remove those barriers so that we can impact generational change,” said Haven of Grace executive director Patricia Bothwell.

The National Partnership for Women and Families ran a study that found babies born in a situation of homelessness are more likely to have a lower birth weight. They are also more likely to have fever, allergies, asthma and other developmental disorders.

“Your nutrition, your environmental exposures, your stress, all these have huge ah effects on how the baby fares,” said Carol Sakala, who leads maternal health and maternity care programming at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

For the babies, for their mothers, shelter is just one part of the solution. The Haven of Grace only accepts women who are pregnant, but it provides them with housing for years after their children are born. It offers private rooms, job training, and – when the time comes – aftercare.

“Our program is designed for long-term impact. The women who come back to us after having been in aftercare have many, many success stories,” Bothwell said.

McAfee is determined to be one of them. She is working on her real estate license while working toward a degree in phlebotomy. She is still, for the time being, jobless. But she’s no longer homeless, she’s no longer scared and she sees something bigger for herself and baby Braille.

“My mission now is to just give back. So, wake up grateful every morning and to give back even when I don't feel like it,” McAfee said.