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.