Homeless Women Are Often Denied the Simple Luxury of Pads and Tampons

Illustration for article titled Homeless Women Are Often Denied the Simple Luxury of Pads and Tampons

Of the all the extreme challenges faced by homeless people, the lack of access to menstruation products is one that, for many homeless women, is among the worst and most humiliating.


In many cases, homeless shelters will have both limited resources in regards to pads and tampons, as well as strict bathroom restrictions that make it increasingly hard, if not impossible, for women to keep clean while having their periods. Not only that, but, as The Huffington Post's Eleanor Goldberg puts it, "the fact that menstruation is a taboo topic to begin with means that people who are able help often aren't even aware that such a vast need exists."

It was that realization that motivated Joanie Balderstone and Rebecca McIntire to start Distributing Dignity, an organization devoted to "distributing pads, bras and tampons to women in need."

Feminine hygiene products are often overlooked during natural disaster drives (as a friend who volunteered during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath once told me, "All these poor women want is some goddamn tampons") and even in donations to women's shelters.

From Philly.com (via HuffPo):

Jeey Moncayo is a caseworker for Camden County Women's Center, where more than a thousand women in 2013 found safety from abusive relationships. She said most women escape their abusers in a hurry, arriving with just the clothes they're wearing. For others, their abusers, in fits of rage, have burned or thrown bleach on their clothes.

Mothers spend any money they have on their kids first. "The women's needs come last," she said.

In June, the center received 150 bras from Distributing Dignity. The women especially liked the option of feminine pads marked narrow, slim, and tween. "It sounds silly," said Moncayo, "but the choice is empowering."

Something to consider next time you donate. Another thing to consider: the government subsidizing tampons and pads.

Image via Shutterstock.



Forever grey, hope y'all will see this: Having been homeless, please let me attest to how very shitty it is to have your period and no supplies. Homeless teens have it even worse, because usually going to a shelter means someone calling CPS. For the first month, I had supplies I'd taken from home. The second month, I still looked clean / innocuous enough to steal what I needed without being noticed. The third month, I got caught stealing but the cashier who caught me was too embarrassed or hated his job enough that he told me to take the stuff and go (thank you again, 711 night clerk). After that I was too scared to steal, so I resorted to using whatever clean clothes I could find as make shift napkins. It was awful and humiliating to be in a public restroom and have to walk out of a stall with an awkwardly folded, bloody wad of clothing in front of other people, and there's no getting *clean* - I always felt like I reeked of gross period smell even when I wasn't on my period. Food is easy enough to come by if you're smart and quick enough (and unless you see the person walk straight from the McDonald's counter to you, food from strangers always comes with a risk, especially as a teenage girl. We'll save the roofied Jamba Juice story for another time) and menstrual supplies are so so rare.

Tl;Dr - If you want to give your local homeless woman something, ask her if she prefers pads or tampons. Throw in a thing of wet wipes and she'll probably cry in gratitude. I know I would have.