Pregnant, On the Streets, and Looking For a Home

This couple lives in a camp in the woods, but they’re looking forward to finding jobs and housing soon. She’s pregnant.

By Joy DiazJanuary 15, 2016 11:42 am|

Courtney Meeks stands at a busy intersection in Austin. A sign that reads “Pregnant and homeless” partially covers her round, eight-month belly. Right now, her thoughts are as loud as the highway.

“Is my water going to break? Am I going to have a C section? You just never know,” she says.

Courtney says some drivers are extremely compassionate; one brought her some maternity pants the other day. Others – well, others are not so kind. “So far this morning I got – why don’t you have a job and you should’ve worn a condom,” Meeks says.

She probably would’ve had she been able to afford one.

For the last five years or so, every penny she receives barely keeps her fed.

Courtney wobbles down a trail that leads into a wooded area where she camps. “There’s cactus and hidden rock so just kinda be careful where you walk,” she says.

The camp is clean. Courtney lives with fiancé William Welch. “It’s home,” she says. “It’s home.”

Image via Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Courtney Meeks is pregnant and homeless.

Courtney Meeks and William Welch kiss while in their camp.

Image by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

It’s home but she misses having a kitchen. She loves to cook. Proof of that is the neat fire pit surrounded by bricks. Her pans hang from biggest to smallest on a tree. Everything is in place.

But 42-year-old Welch and 30-year-old Meeks are not living a bucolic life. At a nearby Whataburger she tells me the bitter cold is one of their biggest challenges. Then, there’s the rain.

“The first flash flood we had I remember it was horrible,” she says. “We had at least a foot of water back in the woods. You know, we looked like drowned rats coming into Whataburger. But the managers at Whataburger are really cool, they know us, so they let us hang out while the worst of the rain was passing.”

During that first flood, Meeks wasn’t pregnant yet. Still, their life was difficult. Their car was impounded. The Austin Police Department says it’s been auctioned. Now, police ticket them because the camp they’ve set up is illegal.

Richard Troxell from the non-profit “House the Homeless” says local ordinances turn people like Meeks and Welch into criminals.

“When you get a ticket – class C misdemeanor – you pay your fine and you’re done. But this is criminal. The no-camping ordinance is a criminal offense,” he says.

And an unpaid ticket goes on a person’s criminal record. Troxell imagines what that could mean for someone interviewing for a job. He thinks of himself in that position.

“And there’s two of us there in the interview. Young gal next to me has no marks on her record. And I’ve got 17,” Troxell says.

Who would you hire? Troxell asks. As a landlord, who would you rent to? “Every time, I would take the person with the clean record,” he says.

Welch and Meeks have records – a challenge she says has prevented her from renewing her nursing license, has prevented them from getting jobs and finding a place. Still, Welch says he’s not giving up.

“I’m pretty hopeful,” Welch says.

And there’s reason to hope. Welch’s sister is applying to rent a two-bedroom home. He says it’s a fixer-upper – but if she gets it, she says Welch and Meeks can live with her. They’ll find out today. So, there’s a hope that their baby will not be born homeless.