Pregnancy and Homelessness: Service Responses

The research for the Pregnancy and Homelessness study originated from concerns expressed by senior staff at Launch Housing and the Royal Women’s Hospital that pregnant homeless women are not receiving the level of support warranted, given their circumstances and that of their unborn child. While individual Victorian homelessness services work with pregnant homeless women, there is currently no systemic response to this group, nor is there reliable information on how many women among the homeless population are pregnant.

These gaps in the service system, and in the collection of data, contribute to lost opportunities for intervention to provide the best possible support to women and infants.

The research had two key elements, reflected in the following two research questions:

  • What is the estimated number of pregnant women in Victoria’s homeless population and how might data collection processes be put in place that better identify and enumerate this group?
  • In what ways do Victorian homelessness and related services work with a pregnant homeless woman, and how might this occur in better ways for both the woman and her baby?

The research was undertaken using a qualitative approach and comprised a literature review and interviews and focus groups with 41 staff from 27 homelessness and pregnancy support agencies that have expertise in the policy and practice of working with pregnant homeless women.

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The research found that while some homelessness services collect data on pregnancy, typically, it is not readily accessible. Specialist women’s homelessness services, including family violence services, are the most likely to collect such information. Health and hospital services are also likely to routinely collect information regarding housing and pregnancy.

However, there are no known means of aggregation between and across these sectors. Not having accurate data on the number of women who are pregnant and homeless in Victoria, and their circumstances, is a significant impediment to improving services and providing the best possible responses to this group of women and their children.

Read the full report: Pregnancy and homelessness.