Pregnant and homeless at 16, Alli Morris moved into a maternity homeless shelter called Grandma’s House in Bend, Ore. When her son, André, was born on Oct. 31, 2010, doctors quickly discovered that he suffered from hypopituitarism, a condition in which the pituitary gland doesn’t produce normal amounts of hormones. André’s medical condition is treatable, however, and he can live a healthy, normal life if he continues to take his medication. Without his medications, André could suffer from seizures and brain damage. It is also imperative that André eats nutritious food. “Nutrition is a really big deal with André,” Alli explains. “With his thyroid problem, if he doesn’t eat healthy, he would become an unhealthy, obese baby, because he doesn’t have a metabolism.”
In order to ensure that Alli and André get the nutrition they need, Alli applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—two programs that help mothers and children like Alli and André.
“I get vouchers for cheese, milk, berries, vegetables, beans, tortillas, and bread. It’s really nice,” Alli says. “André wouldn’t be as healthy as he is without WIC because he wouldn’t have everything he needs. I would not have been able to supply all of that [food].”
Alli graduated from high school last year and got a job working as a bank teller at The Bank of Cascades, where she receives full benefits and childcare. With this additional funding, she and André were able to move into an apartment, and the two are living on their own, which was always Alli’s goal.
“Money is my biggest stress,” Alli confesses. “I want to be able to give André the world …I want to be able to support me and André by myself. I want to show him that I can do it.”
FACT: One in every two babies born in the United States is enrolled in WIC. (Births: Preliminary Data for 2009. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vul. 59, No. 3, December 2010. Annual Program Data for 2008. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.)