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Pregnant and on the street

Living on the street is hard enough. Being pregnant, even harder.

About 130 people live in a tent city on Surrey's notorious Whalley Strip, where paramedics responded to more than 550 overdoses last year.

"Being down here, it's scary being pregnant, right?" Tamara Ashley told CTV. "It's not easy. It's really not. It's hard to stay warm."

The 31 year old addict injects heroin up to four times a day, but she says doctors have told her going cold turkey could kill the baby.

"It's easier for a baby to withdraw out of you than in you," she said. "I knew because I've had two other babies being addicted, that I couldn't stop using."

Working on the street is another danger.

"It's scary. Some guys, they get offensive to it when they find out, so you've got to hide it," she said. "There's others that don't even end up doing the date because they feel sorry…One of my dates recently started bringing me packages of food because he found out I was pregnant."

​Ashley's first two children are both in adoptive homes, but she hopes to keep her third child, who will stay with her mother in Abbotsford.

Joleen Mann had her baby on the sidewalk Dec. 10.

"I lay down on the ground, and there was no holding her back in. She was coming out now," she said.

Outreach workers offer food and supplies, hoping to get women like Ashley into shelters, where they can give birth in a safe environment, but there aren't enough beds.

Maura Gowans of Maxine Wright Place says the 12-bed facility has to turn expectant mothers away almost every day.

"There's just a huge need for this, and there's not enough resources," Gowans said.

– with files from CTV Vancouver



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