MADISON, Wis. - By one estimate, 70 to 90 babies are born a year in Dane County hospitals with no place to call home, and it's becoming a growing and alarming trend.
"It's just been a rough year," said one new mother, who asked not to be identified. "I was put on bedrest because I was high risk at three months, so I haven't been able to work since March. But my baby's father passed away suddenly in August. So we've been struggling."
Losing her boyfriend and her job, due to the health demands of her pregnancy, means that when she checks out of the hospital, she and her daughter will be on the streets.
"We stay in a different church every week," she said.
She's just one of many cases that Jeanne Erickson deals with every year at Project Babies, a group that helps provide the essentials that every newborn baby needs.
"We should all be appalled and should be shocked and really willing to step up and say, ‘What can we do to make this different?'" Erickson said. "As Madison and Dane County, we have to do better."
Erickson spends her weeks delivering donated baby items to countless needy new moms whose numbers seem to constantly be on the rise.
"They're people. They're neighbors. They're not all people who are creating problems. They are infants, and toddlers with parents who care about them deeply," Erickson said.
Babies represent the most vulnerable of society, and Madison has many groups working to help their cause when it comes to homelessness.
At an old home at 303 Lathrop St., the Madison Area Urban Ministry is in the middle of a campaign to raise money for The Healing House, a home where new mothers and other homeless citizens can go to receive recuperative care. It allows new moms to bond with their babies, recuperate, and just as importantly, connect with social services to gain employment, childcare and housing.
"Our goal is to provide a safe, home-like environment for people to come and families to come and get healthy and find help to get back on their feet," said Linda Ketcham, director of Madison Area Urban Ministry. The facility is in the planning stages, and hopes to raise operational funds first and then begin renovations on the old home on the grounds of First Congregational Church.
Until places like Healing House are operational, it's a tough life for homeless moms like the one who shared her story with News 3.
"I find that I often get upset because, you know, you got all these shelters for single men, there are three shelters for single men, but only one shelter for single women and families," Ketcham said.
It's a harsh reality that she and her innocent new daughter are about to face -- something she never imagined when she was growing up in Madison.
"Growing up, I didn't know there were homeless people in Madison. I thought it was just like something in bigger cities, but it is here. And it's a real struggle," the new mom said.
For more information about the group Project Babies, which partners with WISC-TV annually for a community baby shower, visit the website.
More information about Madison Urban Ministry and the plans for Healing House can be found online.