Menstruation and Homelessness: A Call to Action to Preserve Dignity and Spread Compassion
A woman’s period does not stop when she is terminated from employment. A woman’s period does not stop when she faces domestic abuse. A woman’s period does not stop when she struggles with addiction. A woman’s period does not stop when she is evicted or kicked out of her home by her family.
A woman’s period does not stop when she is homeless.
The cost of menstruation is substantial, estimated at over $18,000 throughout the course of a woman’s lifetime. For homeless women, pads, tampons, fresh underwear, pain relief, and soap are often devastatingly inaccessible, forcing them to resort to unsanitary and dangerous methods to manage their menstruation. Bustle writer Janet Upadhye reports that women have resorted to using “socks, paper towels, plastic bags, toilet paper, towels, cotton balls, or clothing in place of hygiene products.” This can cause serious immediate and long-term damage to their physical as well as mental and emotional health.
In a compelling exposé video posted on Bustle, viewers catch a glimpse of the raw daily experience of homelessness through the perspectives of several women. These women face struggles that likely would not even occur to the majority of the population, including the mandatory and heartbreaking choice between food or tampons. One woman, Donna, shares that upon arrival of her period she’s had to “just sit still until [she] came up with something” to manage the bleeding. Resorting to public restroom sinks for makeshift showers and splashing water from cups as they straddle them in order to clean themselves, these women all express a desire to maintain dignity through hygiene. Donna shares, “You just want to feel clean like everybody else.”
For women within this vulnerable population, the challenge to escape the vicious cycle of homelessness becomes agonizingly difficult when compounded by the monthly costs thrust upon them simply for being a woman. On average, packages of pads cost $5.84 and tampons cost $7.62. Dignity and confidence become an unaffordable privilege in contrast to a human right.
This has to stop.
There is good news! YOU can make a difference and help lift women who are struggling with homelessness. There are several opportunities for you to provide support:
Dégagé Ministries, a friend and partner of Be a Rose, supports those struggling with homelessness in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dégagé serves those in need by providing hygiene facilities, low-cost meals, and assistance with a wide scope of personal needs, including transportation, prescription co-pays, clothing, and applying for employment. Please consider donating to this noble mission.
Distributing Dignity partners with organizations and shelters spanning twelve states to provide vulnerable populations of women with news bras and feminine hygiene products. We invite you to visit their website and contribute to this meaningful cause.
Helping Women Period (HWP), a nonprofit organization based in Lansing, MI, has made incredible efforts to serve homeless and low-income women. In 2016, HWP distributed over 120,000 feminine hygiene products! Be a Rose is thrilled to partner with HWP under the common goal of providing relief to underserved populations of women. We encourage you to get involved!
Create “Health and Hygiene Kits” to distribute personally. Please check out this list of suggested guidelines for these kits, which highlights the most useful items, as well as meaningful ways to foster compassion and dignity through this approach.
SPREAD AWARENESS –
Issues of homelessness are already widely neglected and unrecognized as a priority. When compounded with the largely stigmatized subject of menstruation, the conversation becomes yet even more hushed. Pretending these issues do not exist does nothing to solve them. Speak up and speak out! We encourage you to research, share, and spread articles that address these critical issues. A simple “share” on Facebook can reach hundreds of people within your own network. This helps to normalize these issues and bring them to the forefront of people’s minds and conversations, further encouraging a collaborative effort to take action.
Be a Rose is committed to continue breaking barriers, challenging stigmas, and providing much-needed support to women in need. We firmly believe that as human beings, we are all deserving of health, compassion, and dignity. We invite you to subscribe to this blog to keep abreast of issues of women’s health, and we hope you’ll also consider showing your support through a donation to our cause.
When people unite through kindness and generosity, amazing things can happen!
By: Aanee Nichols