Virtual Conference

Dr. Jada Samuels

Western University, Canada

Title: Empowering unhoused mothers: Addressing health inequities and promoting well-being


Homelessness is a pressing global issue, notably in Canada, where record highs have been reached due to the defunding of social programs and affordable housing initiatives in the 1980s, leading to a shift in the homeless demographic. Homeless women, constituting 36% of Canada's homeless population, face unique challenges, particularly during pregnancy, as they lack access to vital prenatal and postnatal healthcare services, proper nutrition, and safe housing. This paper highlights the complex circumstances that lead to homelessness, including intimate partner violence, extreme poverty, food insecurity, and mental and physical illness, further exacerbated by excessively long waitlists for subsidized housing. Unhoused women, often hidden from statistical data, experience different pathways into homelessness, driven by domestic violence and a lack of social support, sometimes resorting to human trafficking for survival. They are twice as likely to become pregnant compared to housed women, who face sexual violence in silence due to their dependence on abusers for survival, leading to increased rates of sexually transmitted infections and diminished reproductive health. Barriers to healthcare access are pervasive and marked by stigma, discrimination, and a lack of understanding of healthcare systems. To address these challenges, healthcare professionals, especially community health and outreach nurses, must identify client strengths, challenge negative self-beliefs, and provide empathetic, trauma-informed, and client-centered care. Coordinated services, including shelter-based initiatives, maternal support, and childcare services, are imperative to optimize maternal and neonatal health outcomes and reduce health inequities. Ultimately, these efforts align with the mission of community health nurses to promote health, empower marginalized populations, and advocate for policy changes, aiming to improve the health and well-being of unhoused mothers and their families