Imagine being pregnant amid the coronavirus pandemic – or worse, homeless. This Fort Walton Beach single mother is both.

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FORT WALTON BEACH – La’Areon Brown was living pillar to post even before the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past two months, Brown and her two children, Knoble, 1, and Kaori, 5, have slept in several places, though none permanent. First, it was her boyfriend’s grandmother’s house in Crestview – until it burned down. Next, it was her aunt’s two-bedroom home in Fort Walton Beach, crammed with four other relatives.

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“I was sleeping on the couch; my kids were sleeping on the couch,” Brown said. “It was so uncomfortable. I’m currently seven months pregnant. You can imagine how bad my back was – it was killing me.”

Brown and her kids were thrown out around the same time the coronavirus started to spread in the U.S. Being pregnant and facing homelessness, Brown falls into two of the high-risk categories for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maggie Tomecek, the deputy director of the Homelessness and Housing Alliance, said there were 201 unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in Okaloosa and Walton counties as of the January point-in-time count held annually across the U.S. These numbers are ever-changing especially since the impact of the coronavirus locally, Tomecek said.

"There are currently three emergency shelters in Okaloosa County and zero in Walton County,” Tomecek said. “Of the three in Okaloosa, only one, Opportunity Place, is currently taking new clients. They accept single women and families with minor children.”

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Wanting to avoid a shelter and provide a semblance of normalcy for her children, Brown rented hotel rooms for as long as she could afford to. Her boyfriend and the children’s father couldn’t help them financially after losing his job at Taco Bell because of the coronavirus.

“If I didn’t have my kids, I would’ve been on the verge of suicide,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world. I felt like I didn’t have anybody.”

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Brown created a fundraiser on GoFundMe to help raise travel money to move into her mother’s one-bedroom apartment in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and prevent her family from being homeless. No one donated so she took it down.

“I couldn’t ride the bus,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to contract anything – or my kids. I just feel like my family is putting me out at this time when I’m pregnant, basically throwing me out to the wolves. There’s a whole deadly virus out here.”

Brown’s “guardian angel,” a Crestview business owner, helped her find transportation, she said. But her new living situation isn’t permanent either.

Brown’s mother lost her job because of the coronavirus and is waiting on unemployment benefits. While their eviction is temporarily on hold and Brown is able to feed her family with government provided food assistance, she doesn’t know their next address.

Brown has no computer access and no income. She and her boyfriend hope to receive an economic income payment (stimulus check) from the Internal Revenue Service, but neither has recently filed taxes.

“I still don’t have any clothes or anything for my new baby that’s coming,” Brown said. “I’m trying to find programs to help, at least with stuff like that.”

Brown is slated to have her baby boy June 12. Her boyfriend is staying with a friend in Crestview, and Brown hopes he can find the money to join her for the birth.

“It is really hard having two small babies and then being pregnant and not having my boyfriend there,” Brown said.