Finding a Safe Space
A Young Mother’s Journey Out of Homelessness
Gabby grew up in foster care and has experienced homelessness on and off since turning 18. At 24, she had her first child, but lost him to SIDS as an infant. When she found out that she was expecting another baby, she was ecstatic. Gabby and her boyfriend decided to get married at seven months pregnant. In her own words, that’s when things began to go downhill. Her husband became abusive. “He was picture perfect in front of other people, but behind closed doors he got aggressive,” she says. Gabby was hospitalized during her pregnancy because of the physical abuse. At some point, she knew that she would have to escape once she had her baby.
Just a few months after her son was born, Gabby took him and fled with nothing but a diaper bag and stroller in tow. Though she had a job, it did not generate enough income to pay for housing. Gabby describes the moment she bought a tent as when “the real homelessness” started. With nowhere else to go, she lived with her infant son on the sidewalk of 39th Street for five months while continuing to work. “I felt like less than a Mom,” she says.
When she met a worker from HOPICS, everything turned around for her. HOPICS and The People Concern helped Gabby to apply for an apartment with Clifford Beers Housing. Today, she and her son live at CBH apartments with supportive services. Onsite services such as mental health counseling and jobs training help her to process her trauma and are giving her the independence necessary to break the cycle of violence.
“My son is the person who gave me hope through everything,” she says. Gabby and her child have been CBH residents for over a year.
Each year, more than 20,000 youth “age out” of foster care and lose their safety nets overnight. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015) This means that they lose access to the financial, educational, and social supports provided through the child welfare system. Without stable familial connections, this can lead to housing instability. In a representative sample of foster youth in California, over one-third of aged-out 19-year-olds experienced homelessness and over 40% couch-surfed (Courtney et al., 2016).
On a single night in 2019, homeless service providers had more than 48,000 beds set aside for survivors of domestic violence like Gabby. (National Alliance to End Homelessness) Housing instability heightens the risks for women experiencing abuse. In addition, poverty limits women’s choices and makes it harder to escape violent relationships. (ACLU)