Philadelphia Is Helping Pregnant Women So They Don’t Go Homeless


Office of Rep. Lauren Underwood

After Cleopatra Herrera Robinson’s best friend Lashana “Shana” Gilmore died while giving birth, Robinson formed A Home From Shana Foundation to address the concerns of Black mothers in Philadelphia.

In the wake of her sudden loss, Robinson was inspired to become a doula. As someone who used to work at an emergency intake shelter, Robinson recalled how “there were times where I had to turn away young pregnant women because there was no space or there just wasn’t the capacity to accommodate the mother or newborn,” PBS reported.

“If it’s not low birth weight, it is birth complications or postpartum depression, and anything that’s involved with mental health, or housing instability,” stated Robinson. “Unstable housing adds to health risks for the birth outcome in the mother.”

According to the Urban Institute, “[r]esearch shows that pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of homelessness, and pregnant women face greater health risks while unstably housed.” An analysis of this statistic from an intersectional perspective finds that, “[p]regnant people experiencing homelessness are disproportionately Black, Hispanic, and younger.”

And Herrera’s commitment toward fixing this issue at the grassroots level has gained traction. In May 2023, City Council Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson advocated for $250,000 in funding from the 2024 budget to go toward the Foundation to address Black mothers experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia.

Richardson’s communications director Barry Johnson told ESSENCE that “[t]he check presentation will take place on Wednesday, February 28.” The funds will help establish the City’s “first and only maternity safe haven…staffed with birth doulas called ‘LaborLiveLove.’”

“I was so pleased to support Cleopatra Herrera Robinson and A Home from Shana Foundation in their mission to address the Black Maternal Mortality crisis impacting Black birthing people in Philadelphia and across the United States,” said Richardson. “As someone who has experienced serious health complications during childbirth, this is personal to me. I look forward to working with our partners in Harrisburg, PA and Washington, DC to advance this important work and continue creating safer spaces for those being impacted the most by this crisis.”

“I created A Home from Shana Foundation to honor the memory of my best friend LaShana Gilmore who died a preventable death while giving birth,” Robinson says. “Throughout my journey of becoming a birth doula, I discovered that far too many Black women and birthing people are also facing housing insecurity. We know that stable and adequate living arrangements make for better birth outcomes. LaborLiveLove offers displaced mothers the chance to experience safe and respectful childbirth. This $250,000 grant from Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson will allow us to do that and so much more.”


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