Parenting Through Homelessness and COVID-19: The Unfiltered Truth

Navigating homelessness as an individual can trigger an unimaginable level of trauma and challenges that no one should experience; navigating homelessness as a parent brings about its own additional challenges and complexities, all of which have been worsened by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, SchoolHouse Connection connected with four mothers from across the country to share their unique parental perspectives.

Read on to hear more about the challenges facing parents and their children who are navigating homelessness during the COVID-19 era; the assistance they have found thus far, and the support they still need, but have not yet received. This post has been repurposed from our blog post and you can check out the session in full here.

If you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, and your story.

April: OK, well, I’m an African American female, born and raised in an inner city in the DMV, Washington, DC area. I am a mother of nine. I am 40 years old. I am just coming out of homelessness. I, um, I became homeless after being displaced from leaving Florida. I was married. I’ll take you back a bit before I got there. Like I said, I grew up in the DC area. I did not have parents. I was a foster kid myself. I was completely lost. Needless to say, at about 31, I decided that I was going to pack my life up. I moved to Florida, did something different and had been advocating and been a social advocate in Florida for the last eight years. Never expected to experience…Started civic organization, Unified Community Outreach, and have been completely advocating for everyone in every policy I could think of, socially, and economically, where I just came from. And in six months, my life flipped upside down. I lost my home, I lost my marriage, I relocated to New Jersey thinking that I was getting into a better situation for myself.

And then everything went awry. I have four minor children that are with me, and needless to say, I ended up homeless in the dead of winter in New Jersey with no family, no options. Just devastating homelessness to the point where we were sleeping in a vehicle. Ended up in a hotel placement and, um, it’s, it’s been a whirlwind from there. I know we only have two minutes, so I’ll give someone else time to share.

Julie: OK, well, my name is Julie Campos. I have a one year old whose name is Miguel. I live in Chicago, Illinois, born and raised. I actually experienced, started experiencing homelessness when I got pregnant, and I got pregnant because my stepfather had been abusing me since the age of 13. So, um, when my mother found out, she kicked me out, and she found out when I was eight months pregnant, so it was already like, very far along. She didn’t care about anything that had happened, so she kicked me out, and I ended up going to a shelter, called the Night Ministry, which was really like, helpful towards me. But it really messed me up, because I had never experienced homelessness before, and it was really hard for me to be homeless while I was pregnant, and having no communication at all with my mom, or my sister at all, and just seeing my mom still have a relationship with her husband was really hard for me, and I was still trying to go to school. So, I was a full-time student at Harold Washington College. I’m trying to get a major in early childhood education. That’s one of my main goals. I want to become a teacher. And I just want to be an example for my one year old, because he’s the only person that I feel like is looking up to me right now.

“I’M TRYING TO GET A MAJOR IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. THAT’S ONE OF MY MAIN GOALS. I WANT TO BECOME A TEACHER. AND I JUST WANT TO BE AN EXAMPLE FOR MY ONE YEAR OLD, BECAUSE HE’S THE ONLY PERSON THAT I FEEL LIKE IS LOOKING UP TO ME RIGHT NOW.”

Freda: Good afternoon. My name is Freda Mason. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I just turned 38 this past Tuesday. I’m a mother of five children: a 17-year-old girl is my oldest, and I have four boys, one 13, one 11, one 9, and one 6. Well, my past life, I actually grew up in a foster home, but I made it out of that terrible situation. And I ended up graduating from high school, I graduated from college, I started my own childcare business, and that’s how I was getting my income. I was actually very successful. I completed some of my goals. I was in nine movies, which was a big thing for me, because that’s what I always wanted to do. I had a good life, until I hit the age of 35 and my uncle passed away in my home. Someone died in my house– it sent me into a depression. After that, I kind of lost it a little bit. I lost my job and I ended up losing my apartment. By me paying market rent, it was hard for me to get another apartment. Everybody was always saying the eviction had to be three years old, so I ended up becoming homeless, going from house to house, hotels, sleeping in the car or whatnot. And right now, I’m still currently homeless, basically kind of due to COVID-19, and I’m just hoping all of this COVID goes away.

Destiny: I was in foster care and I became homeless at 17 from my foster parents who adopted me at 11. And I was experiencing secret abuse sexually, and mentally and I was just really, like, fed up with it, so I had to leave. So, I went and stayed with a friend, that was horrible. Then I graduated from high school from my friend’s house. And then, after that, I was working jobs here and there. I moved, I came back, and I was just really running around, living pillar to post. Until something kind of said in my spirit, ‘Go to Covenant House.’ It’s the only youth organization in New Orleans. People from Thibodeaux, Louisiana and Gonzalez have to come all the way from out there to come out here because it’s the only youth shelter in Louisiana. Me being at the Covenant House gave me a lot at peace with myself, and I found myself. I was very depressed when I came here though, because me being in a shelter really made me kind of sad. But, I had to raise a daughter and I was six months pregnant, so I had to just swallow all of that and also then get help with COVID at the Covenant house.

To hear more about April, Julie, Freda, and Destiny’s experiences navigating parenting during the coronavirus pandemic, read our blog post here, or check out the full webinar here.

This is hub of expertise and stories to drive solutions around children, youth, and family homelessness. It is a project of SchoolHouse Connection.