Being homeless comes with endless inhibition of day-to-day life, not least, for women, the week of the month when their period comes.
Most homeless women have limited or no access to sanitary products, which means they may be forced to go without them. And the number of women going through this is not insignificant; according to a snapshot report from autumn 2016, around 500 women sleep rough in the UK every night in doorways, parks, bus shelters, cars and other places not designed for habitation.
While food and clothing are common donations to homeless shelters, essential sanitary products are often forgotten.
Now a Reddit thread has highlighted the issue, after someone posted asking former homeless users to suggest what was the “best thing to do to help”.
With plenty of responses rolling in, it didn’t take long for a female user to say why sanitary products were a fundamental addition to any care pack or donation.
“Make sure to keep a few packs aside with feminine hygiene products,” the user told someone who makes packs for the homeless. “Tampons/pads are expensive, and often overlooked in donations.”
Other users then chimed in to explain the best types of sanitary products, warning: “Menstrual cups [are probably not suitable as they] need to be cleaned, and not every woman can wear them. Also, they wouldn't last long if they're being carried in a backpack when not in use.”
While another confirmed: “Pads are the best option. It's very difficult to sanitise and clean a diva cup, and some women can't use cups or tampons.”
As well as encouraging people to give food and clothing, especially multiple pairs of socks, the former homeless Reddit users reminded people of the importance of compassion.
“They’re just people, who for one reason or another are not staying in a place with four walls and a roof. Don’t treat them like a separate species. Sit and talk with them for a few minutes,” one wrote.
In 2015 The Homeless Period started a campaign in hopes of making female sanitary products readily available from shelters, in the same way that condoms are currently. The issue was then raised in parliament in December last year, after the campaign’s petition exceeded its goal of 10,000 signatures. However, the government is yet to provide an allowance to shelters for the products, so donations are a fundamental resource for the female homeless community.
Ensuring homeless people have access to sanitary products is about so much more than hygiene and comfort – it provides dignity for an already vulnerable part of the population.
You can donate sanitary products to your local shelter or food bank, or via an organisation like In Kind Direct who distribute larger company donations where they are most needed across the UK.
Images: The Homeless Period / iStock