December Prenatal & Infant Care Webinar on
Housing Trends and Resources for parents, children, and vulnerable populations

The St. Joseph Community Health Foundation hosted a Prenatal & Infant Care Network webinar on December 1, 2022, on housing trends and resources for parents, children, and vulnerable populations. As a city that is often ranked as one of the most affordable to live in, local experts and service providers weighed in on the question, “Is Fort Wayne really the most affordable city?” 

Erin Norton, director of community outreach at Parkview Women’s and Children’s Services, shared insights from the Allen County Fetal Infant Mortality Review team to highlight how housing can affect families and lead to adverse outcomes such as fetal and infant death.

“Having a place to live is a basic human need,” said Norton. “If families don’t have a stable, safe place to live, they’re in situations where they’re having to make decisions that ultimately lead to bad outcomes…because we are seeing bad outcomes where housing plays a role.”

Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne, shared local and national trends to help explain why Fort Wayne might not be the most affordable city after all. Allen County has a larger than average share of people in low-income households, below average wages that haven’t been keeping up with inflation, and steadily rising median rents, all of which disproportionately impact low-income households. “Higher-income households actually fare pretty well in Allen County,” said Blakeman. “When we hear about housing affordability, it tends to be for higher income households.”

There are, however, ways to both provide and receive help. Jackie Martinez, programs director at Healthier Moms and Babies, shared strategies for identifying the needs of clients and how to help fill the gaps as service providers in ways that are specific to each client. Denita Washington, director of programs at Fort Wayne Housing Authority, emphasized that her organization offers more than just the Section 8 housing program. “We offer some amazing programs for wraparound services and support,” offered Washington. One example is the Family Self-Sufficiency Program that is designed to empower, equip, and encourage families for next-level living, including home ownership, financial literacy, nutrition, employment, education, and childcare resources. 

While the Fort Wayne Housing Authority does not offer emergency housing, A Mother’s Hope provides shelter and care to pregnant women in need of a home. “When your housing is unstable, everything is unstable,” said Stasia Roth, founder and executive director of A Mother’s Hope. “We’ve seen a 44% increase in applications in 2022 alone.” A Mother’s Hope isn’t just a shelter, it’s also a program to offer women a change in life so that mothers won’t find themselves in need of shelter ever again.

The St. Joe Foundation believes in walking beside the most vulnerable and offering support whenever possible. The Prenatal and Infant Care Network is a resource and educational opportunity to help prenatal care providers strengthen skills and knowledge to better serve their clients.

View the recording