According to the National Organization for Women, there are over 210,000 women that menstruate experiencing homelessness in the United States. These women are challenged to secure hygiene products, privacy to change such products, pain relief, and regular laundry and shower sources. Additionally, they are left without the basic resources needed to feel clean, safe, and secure. Thus, periods can be a monthly devastating phenomenon given the lack of a clean shelter to properly care for their menstruation. The average menstruator spends about $20 on hygiene products per cycle, adding up to about $18,000 over their lifetime.
You may be wondering: How do menstruators deal with their monthly periods while experiencing homelessness?
Nationwide, there are 50,000 menstruating-women living on the streets who have limited access to feminine hygiene products with no steady or comfortable place to shower. Therefore, they are forced to get creative with ways to keep clean when their time of the month arrives. Some are left with the option of stealing products, while others wait for homeless outreach crews to come by with menstruating kits. The last option is to use what they are able to find with socks, paper towels, plastic bags, toilet paper, towels, cotton balls, or clothing in place of hygiene products.
Everyone needs space for themselves, especially during their period. Menstruators who experience homelessness feel embarrassed with blood-soaked clothing with little to no period products or clean private areas to clean and change themselves during their menstrual cycles. Unfortunately, these makeshift period products that are not meant for menstruation cycles. Consequently, these makeshift solution can lead to exposure to bacteria and possibly diseases like yeast infections and urinary tract infections. This is especially consequential for menstruators experiencing homelessness given this population often experiences obstructions to healthcare.
The tabooness of periods has made menstruators feel shame or guilt about going through this natural process. All menstruators who experience homelessness should not be looked down upon. Instead, these individuals need a helping hand to support them in their menstruation cycles. Periods should be normalized for all menstruators to get the resources they need by the supply of free and easily accessible products. Menstruation is not a choice, but a monthly struggle that can cause serious physical and emotional distress.
Fortunately, there are organizations like Helping Women Period and The Homeless Period Project that are willing to help those menstruating while experiencing homelessness. These groups seek to bring global awareness to this issue by doing their best to provide products and services. We can also help by donating, volunteering to pack or dispense care products, or by simply sharing information on social media. The bottom line is that hygiene products are a basic necessity just as much as food, water, and shelter. Every person that menstruates should have the right to have a safe and healthy period.