Habit and habitat: Housing, government policy, drugs, and pregnant women
Australian Journal of Primary Health
10(2) 9 - 20
In this paper I report on young drug-dependent pregnant women, their housing needs, and the effectiveness of policies and services designed to meet their needs. The research on which this paper is based is part of an Australian Housing Urban Research Institute project. Most of the material used in this article comes from the City of Yarra, where we interviewed poly-drug users to explore how different kinds of accommodation options (from secure private or public housing through to insecure housing to no accommodation options other than squats or ?sleeping out?) impact on interviewees? capacity to participate in various socioeconomic and cultural activities. The primary research question asked is whether or not government policies and programs complement and support each other or whether they work against each other in respect to young homeless pregnant drug users. A series of vignettes are presented to answer this question, and they reveal how housing and related services that pregnant women need to use frequently overlook their multiple needs. This can range from services offering support in the areas of drug and alcohol, to financial and legal issues, to domestic and family violence matters, to health and disability problems. When a pregnant woman decides to manage her drug use better, she usually faces a number of barriers. An exploration of those barriers takes us into discussions about the general shortage of appropriate housing, the constraints she experiences in the private rental market, and how particular administrative requirements cause difficulties for the pregnant women (i.e., housing acceptance deadlines). Long waiting lists for supported accommodation and public housing along with policies like ?zero-tolerance? drug regulations exclude these women from shelters. In the final section of the paper, the issues of stigma and shame are considered along with the way in which drug use, pregnancy and housing shortages lead to child protection interventions and often loss of custody. My finding is that despite officially declared commitments to a ?whole of government approach?, as opposed to ?a silo approach?, departments and agencies frequently work in isolation from each other, and indeed often against each other.
Full text doi:10.1071/PY04021
© La Trobe University 2004