(originally posted on December 19, 2016, from Affinity Magazine)
For anyone who has to endure periods, you know just how awful it truly is, but for homeless women, it is a whole different story.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2015 annual homeless assessment report, 39.7% of all homeless people in the United States are women. 50,000 of those women are unsheltered and living on the streets. This means that for homeless women, they often won’t know where to turn when they are trying to take care of their feminine hygiene needs, which therefore often leads to many homeless women having to make the difficult decision between food and tampons.
This problem directly correlates with the cost of sanitary products, as the average cost for sanitary products per package in the United States is $5.84 for pads and $7.62 for tampons. It is also estimated that the average annual cost for pads is $70 and $90 for tampons. In Britain, the average cost for a box of tampons from supermarkets is between 2 to 3 pounds, which is normally the same price for pads. However, local shops tend to sell pads and tampons as high as £5. The average person who has a period knows that other items such medication for cramps, new underwear, hot water bottles and chocolates can accumulate to be rather expensive, which means that those additional items to help treat periods are not an option for homeless women.
A short video conducted by ‘Bustle’ shows just how difficult that time of the month can be for homeless women. The women talked about how they have used plastic bags, towels, napkins, socks and many other items as an alternative to tampons or pads. Because of this, they are more prone to getting infections and homeless women who can purchase tampons are much more prone to toxic shock syndrome because they are more likely to have them in for a longer duration of time. One woman, Alexa, stated, “I’d rather be clean than full.” Homeless women don’t have the option of buying new clothes if they bleed on them during their period, and this can be an extremely embarrassing situation, which will often damage their dignity.
It is reported that homeless shelters don’t always provide these essentials because they are deemed to be ‘luxury’ products. This also goes for some prisons and schools.
Many different movements and organisations have pushed for more awareness, as this issue needs to be addressed. Hashtag Happy Period being one of them. Happy Period’s aim is to provide menstrual hygiene kits to the homeless who would otherwise go without out. They recognize and support teenagers, nonbinary, and the LGBTQ community. The Homeless Period is another movement, which addresses this issue, as they believe that tampons and towels should be made available to homeless shelters, the same way the government provides condoms.
You can support this cause by donating tampons and towels to homeless shelters, or directly giving these essential products to homeless women, or checking out Hashtag Happy Period and The Homeless Period to get involved.