Teen Mothers and Homelessness in Shelby County, Tennessee
The problems facing homeless pregnant and parenting teen mothers and their babies in Shelby County are not well documented. Teen mothers tend to be very poor, and most are single parents; these stresses are often compounded by homelessness, lack of education, physical or sexual abuse and health issues.
Homelessness increases their risk of negative outcomes. Teenage mothers with fragile living situations may have to leave their homes when they become pregnant. Pregnancy may be the final straw in an already unstable living situation, or their homes may be unsuitable environments in which to raise their babies due to issues of overcrowding, unsafe living conditions, domestic violence, drugs or other extenuating circumstances.
There are no housing options in Shelby County for pregnant and parenting teenage mothers and their babies under the age of 18 who cannot live with a parent or responsible adult. Homeless shelters and battered women shelters in Tennessee do not accept minor teen mothers and their babies. Few teenage mothers have the financial and personal resources to live independently, particularly while caring for a young child, and teen mothers facing housing instability are likely to be among the most disadvantaged.
Recent research shows that:
- Homeless infants are more likely to have low birth weights; one third of homeless infants lack primary immunization (Hart-Shegos, 1999).
- More than 1 in 3 homeless preschoolers exhibit emotional and behavioral problems (Eddins, 1993).
- Three in 4 homeless children under the age of five have at least one substantial development delay; nearly half (44 percent) have two or more serious developmental problems (Hart-Shegos, 1999).