Advancing Reproductive Justice in a Housing Crisis: A collective effort to understand and build solutions

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape Left to right: panelists Patice Romeo, Dr. Suzanne Turner, Amy Deschamps, and moderator Nicole Biros-Bolton

In late March, YWCA Hamilton along with LEAF Hamilton, invited community at large to join us for an evening of solutions-based conversations about the intersection of pregnancy and homelessness at an event called ‘Advancing Reproductive Justice in a Housing Crisis’, hosted at Workers Arts & Heritage Centre.  

Over 60 people showed up for Keynote speaker Mary Vaccaro, faculty member at the McMaster University School of Social Work and YWCA Hamilton’s reproductive care lead and panel discussion with: Dr. Suzanne Turner, Family Physician and Intrapartum care provider at the Maternity Centre of Hamilton and The Program for Substance Use in Pregnancy, Patice Romeo, Executive Director of Birth Mark and Full-Spectrum Doula and Childbirth Educator, and Amy Deschamps, Director of Housing & Gender-Based Violence Support Services at YWCA Hamilton. 

Attendees learned about the crisis in reproductive justice for those experiencing homelessness and what YWCA and partners are doing to address this.

After consulting those with lived experiences of homelessness and the need for reproductive care, YWCA Hamilton recognized the need for immediate response – folks need access to these services urgently, they cannot wait for community organizations to apply for funding and develop programs.  

Amy Deschamps shared that housing and reproductive justice cannot be separated. People who experience homelessness face unique barriers to abortion access – they often do not have the resources to access proper care, which can have a long–term impact on their health. Dr. Suzanne Turner also added that post-partum care is directly impacted by housing. Accessing reproductive care is also important as many of them have had past traumas that might affect their health.   

Patice Romeo also shared that reproductive justice, intersectionality, and action go hand in hand – if a person chooses to parent, are they able to do so in a community that is safe, accessible, and affordable?  

She elaborates that as a community, we need to support the people with the most barriers – this way we can ensure that we are providing care for everyone else and that no one slips through the cracks.

Three beds through YWCA Hamilton’s Emergency Reproductive Care program are not enough. It’s one of the reasons YWCA Hamilton is working toward a 90 unit supportive housing build on Barton St.

We thank all the community partners, members, and organizations who joined us for this important conversation and affirm our advocacy efforts to make reproductive care accessible to those who need it the most.  

In our previous Joint Stakeholder Report with Action Canada and Call to Action in 2021, we emphasized the need for funds to prevent pregnant individuals and those who have abortions, stillbirths, or miscarriages from being denied access to emergency shelter beds. We also voiced the need for a convenient, all-in-one center for reproductive health care and support, which would simplify access to essential services. 

While the road is long, we are optimistic about the future of reproductive justice and care, and we work to fill in the gaps through community efforts and events. Your support and involvement truly make our events special and impactful – we look forward to continuing to grow together as a community.

This is the first in a quarterly series, where YWCA Hamilton will bring together community members who want to deepen their understanding of challenges faced by women and gender-diverse people in Hamilton and to hear from YWCA Hamilton and community experts about the work being done and the need for community support to advance solutions.

Each evening will include sponsorship opportunities – shout out to Jo Gale at The Move Room, a picky tea from your favourite women-owned establishments (hello, Pinch!) beverages, a prize, merch and multiple ways to engage with YWCA Hamilton and other organizations doing gender justice work.

To learn more about our advocacy initiatives and receive invites to these events, sign up here. 

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