‘Young, Unhoused and Unseen’ | Episode 2: Young moms

In this episode, a group of young mothers, a street outreach worker, and Marisol Bello from the Housing Narrative Lab speak about the challenges facing unhoused young moms.

Listen 23:28
2 woman with a young child sitting on the ground in the park.

Young moms kill time at Love Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

This episode is from Young, Unhoused and Unseen, a podcast production from WHYY News and Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting.

Find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Young, Unhoused and Unseen,” the podcast and multimedia project produced by WHYY News and Temple University’s Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting, examines youth homelessness in the Greater Philadelphia region and explores solutions to address the epidemic.

Approximately 1 in 3 homeless young adults in Philadelphia are pregnant or parenting. In America’s poorest biggest city, young moms are not getting enough services. Their needs are greater.

According to Marisol Bello, director of the Housing Narrative Lab, unhoused young mothers face “networked poverty” — a situation in which someone’s support network is made up of people who are similarly in need of assistance. The path to receive basic needs, he said, can be a maze.

“It’s not that folks are out there not trying. Folks are trying, but we’ve set it up where we’ve built these massive, gigantic walls that we’re saying climb over them, but there’s nobody helping them up over the wall. There’s no chair, there’s no stool, there’s nothing. And the wall is sheer, so there’s nothing for them to hang on to,” Bello said.

As a result, their children can fall victim to the cycle of homelessness as well.

In this episode, we follow Troy Mouzon, an outreach worker with SELF Incorporated, an organization that provides emergency and permanent housing. Mouzon takes us to LOVE Park to meet unhoused young mothers and their families. The goal is to get them vital housing and services.

Troy Mouzon in the park
Troy Mouzon talks to young families at Love Park in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

But facing networked poverty amid a period of stagnant wages and rising housing costs, Safiyah McKenzie, a young mother, said she just wants stability — a space for her child to grow up.

“Somewhere, not even for me but somewhere she can call home, where she could feel safe, like… somewhere she can call, ‘OK now I’m going home, not, OK I’m going back to the shelter,’” McKenzie said.

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