Ground-breaking new program offers emergency reproductive care for women and gender-diverse people experiencing homelessness

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape Christine DeRosa sits at the foot of an empty bed with a yellow wall behind her.

Ground-breaking new program offers emergency reproductive care for women and gender-diverse people experiencing homelessness

A new program at YWCA Hamilton is helping to support women and gender-diverse people in need of emergency reproductive care.

Thanks to a grant from the Shoppers Foundation for Women’s Health, YWCA Hamilton has dedicated three beds within our Transitional Living Program to people experiencing homelessness who are pregnant, who have had or who are seeking an abortion, who have experienced pregnancy loss, or who need emergency reproductive care. The goal is to help counteract the widespread lack of access to appropriate housing and community-based supports during pregnancy and postpartum – a situation that is worsened for folks experiencing homelessness who are disproportionately impacted by gender-based violence, substance use and addictions, and child welfare intervention.

These beds provide safety and shelter for women and pregnant people who would otherwise have no access to reliable housing, meals, bathroom or shower facilities, hygiene products, maternity clothing and basic infant needs, or other supports. Those using the program also have access to wraparound supports and services, including a doula dedicated to caring for clients using the beds.

Christine DeRosa, who has been seconded from Birth Mark Hamilton to act as the dedicated doula for this program, provides supports by attending appointments, helping clients access prenatal and postnatal care, providing support during and after abortion care, adoption, or child welfare intervention, or supporting clients during pregnancy loss.

Christine, who has been a doula for 20 years, points out that pregnancy is often a vulnerable time in a person’s life – regardless of whether they are housed or not.

“It doesn’t matter how marginalized you may be – you still need people to guide you to resources and support you, whether it’s be emotionally, physically, spiritually,” she said. “I’m always honoured to go on that journey.”

During her time supporting this program, Christine has already helped one woman through a pregnancy loss, and another through an induction and birth. Another has been considering adoption, which Christine knows could be a difficult journey.

“Everybody has been quite receptive to the services we’re providing, which has been wonderful,” she said.

Christine points out that while this program provides an essential service, it does not have a reliable source of long-term funding – something Christine says needs to change.

“This is a necessity,” she said. “We can’t turn a blind eye because it’s not pretty. Just because it might not be your lived experience – the reality is, it’s somebody’s lived experience. We need to create this wraparound service so no one falls through the cracks.”

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