The Difficulties of Menstruating While Homeless
Vaginal bleeding due to menstruation is a production that most women are extremely familiar with, but for some women –dispossessed women– a menstrual cycle can be a dark and taxing time.
Menstruation is a monthly event whereby mucosal tissue and blood is shed from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina as the body prepares for pregnancy. While a woman’s ‘monthly’ or ‘period’ can be a slight irritation or a challenge for most, periods can be a time of crisis. Feminine hygiene can be difficult when struggling with poverty, as failure address, it can be offensive and affect health.
Already, homeless women encounter countless indignities, but that’s humiliations are punctuated when individuals don’t have the tools to properly execute self-care. Shelters rarely accumulate pads and tampons for its guests, though they regularly gather shampoos and toothpaste to accommodate homeless individuals.
Access to toilets, sanitary products, safe places to change clothes, and places to wash ones close can be difficult, and not enough is done to address the frequently overlooked issue.
Throughout history, women have used everything from milkweed fluff to old cloth to soak up blood and plugging leaks; and toilet paper has long been utilized as a temporary solution to the monthly spillage. However, most women don’t opt to use toilet paper because it can slip out of place or cause discomfort. In the case that women do use toilet paper for a slight emergency, they tend to have access to absorbent brands or take comfort in the fact that their toilet paper is likely to be clean.
These less fortunate women don’t necessarily have access to thick or quality toilet paper, and they often don’t have access to clean toilet paper. Their toilet paper is normally stored in safe places such as pipe alleys and dirty back rooms, and with irregular access to bathrooms, it’s not promised that one will have a safe place to properly apply their hand-made tampons with toilet paper.
There are affordable alternatives to toilet paper or disposable sanitary napkins. For instance, diva cups, sea sponges, or crocheted tampons, but they can be messy. However, again, this would mean that women would have to seek out safe spaces so that they can clean, empty and/or reinstall these devices, which can be close to impossible. This can be a specifically horrific experience for a woman in male-dominated spaces struggling with violence or trauma, requiring access to a lavatory.
The online campaign, #TheHomelessPeriod addressed the lack of options homeless women face. According to the effort, their “initiative believes that tampons and towels should be made available to homeless shelters, the same way the government provides condoms.” The potentially life-changing effort began with a video and eventually lead to widespread national campaigns in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
Actions created to support homeless women and resource drives spawned to preserve their dignity are so vital. Please seek out your local homeless shelter and donate sanitary napkins. Also, touch base with advocacy groups that seek to boost the comfort of women. Additionally, if you know the names of any organizations that provide safe spaces to homeless women, please share in the comment section.
To learn more about this very important issue, please visit Soapboxie, which published a piece titled, “Homeless Periods: A Problem of Poverty, Dignity, and Feminine Hygiene.”