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Period Products in The Homeless Community

Periods are often the last thing you want to discuss, regardless of who has them. It is often ignored and understood that periods shouldn’t be addressed. Things that make us uncomfortable are often swept under the rug and ignored. We fail those struggling to find sanitary products for their periods. Those who are unhoused and menstruate must struggle to find hygienic products and adapt.  

When you are struggling financially, buying period products often becomes a luxury. For example, an average box of tampons costs $7; people who get periods will have a period once a month and are instructed to change their tampons roughly every 6-8 hours. A menstrual cycle can last, on average, 3-5 days. So that’s approximately three tampons a day for 3-5 days, and let’s say there are 36 tampons in the box, so someone with a period averages going through a box every two periods. 

And those are just averages. Everyone with a period is highly different and often doesn’t fit into a perfect average box.   

When struggling to put food on the table or pay rent, purchasing sanitary products often falls by the wayside. It becomes a luxury, which is crazy! Most women’s products come with something called “The Pink Tax.” 

What is the Pink Tax? Great question; it is a premium price on products designed traditionally for women. This doesn’t just include period products; this includes; razors, shampoos, and soap marketed toward women. This is in conjunction with women getting paid less on average—another reason women struggle to afford sanitary period products.

The number one thing shelters always ask for is period products. They are in constant demand, and shelters and non-profits never have enough. 

Unhoused people are often forgotten about and ignored in society; however, those who deal with periods are often doubly forgotten. This may be an unclear anecdote, so let me break it down for you; when we look at someone experiencing homelessness, that becomes their identity. When we look at those who have periods and are unhoused, we fail to see the detailing of how they struggle. 

As a society, we must pay attention to those in the margins. The ones we often fail to look at on a good day. 

Those who have periods and are unhoused have their periods every month, often resulting in a selection of different methods to deal with them. 

Some methods include; wading up t-shirts, socks, and toilet paper and staying in place all day to avoid the public shaming of having a blood stain. Moreover, those who have periods and are unhoused don’t have consistent access to a bathroom or running water. Having your period and using unclean products can result in severe injury and disease. This becomes extremely risky for unhoused individuals because those who struggle with homelessness often lack access to medical services. Any type of infection that is left untreated can become deadly. 

Periods are messy, and not having proper access to hygiene products and an area where people can clean themselves, and any clothes that may get dirtied can result in infections. 

This isn’t even taking into account those who struggle with period pains. Period pains can come from tender breasts, lower back pains, nausea, headaches, and intense menstrual cramps. An average person can take some painkillers and make it through their day; however, those who are unhoused do not have that option. For some women, period pains can be debilitating and unbearable.  

And this is a struggle every month. Each month those who are unhoused and menstruate must find a way to make it through their periods and stay healthy while doing it. 

Hygiene is a massive struggle in the unhoused community. Moreover, the understanding of the necessity for hygiene is often underestimated by everyone.  

There is a lack of access to materials that can aid itself to foster a greater understanding of the necessity for those who have periods to have access to sanitary period products and areas where they can go to clean themselves. 

Sanitary period products are often the last thing to be thought of by organizations because they don’t happen to everyone. Frequently, organizations try to build these solutions as a one-size-fits-all when those struggling with homelessness all have unique struggles. Like those with periods, which isn’t very special considering half the population deals with them. 

At this point, you may ask, “what can I do?” It is a great question, and the most straightforward answer is to donate period products to any organization that assists those without homes. Anywhere. As stated above, it is in constant demand, and there is always a continuous lack because it is often viewed as the period haver’s issue. 

Looking to help? Donate period products. Period. 

Sources:

https://onlinenursing.duq.edu/master-science-nursing/the-ultimate-guide-to-feminine-hygiene/#:~:text=Women%20have%20an%20average%20of,on%20tampons%20is%20approximately%20%241%2C773.33. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-normal-menstruation#:~:text=Most%20people%20bleed%20for%20three,days%20is%20still%20considered%20normal.

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/homeless-women-in-need-of-menstrual-products-period/19798/?amp=1

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/amphtml/tannisthasinha/period-poverty-pandemic

https://now.org/blog/female-homelessness-and-period-poverty/

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