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Need Grows For Feminine Hygiene Products In Homeless Shelters

Kaitlyn Luckow

Feminine hygiene products are necessary items that most women take for granted every day. In fact, we sometimes loathe the day we have to throw in some pads into our grocery cart because menstruation is still seen by many as taboo.

However, we forget how privileged we are to have access to these products to begin with. For many homeless and low-income individuals, feminine hygiene products become a luxury.

Feminine hygiene products are desperately needed in homeless shelters across the country because no one seems to think about this obvious need.

Not only do feminine hygiene products provide items for individuals who need them most, but they also provide a sense of dignity that is usually forgotten. Hundreds and thousands of homeless and low-income individuals are forced to make the choice between a meal and buying feminine hygiene products every day, forcing them to lose a sense of dignity as they are forced to use whatever is free and available to them: usually an old piece of cloth or wadded up toilet paper.

Why Is This A Problem?

This problem exists largely in part due to the prices and taxes involved with feminine hygiene products. An average individual that menstruates spends about $120 a year on tampons or pads alone. And that’s not including any other purchases associated with menstruation such as medicine, birth control, heating pads, etc.

In fact, according to the Huffington Post, an individual will spend approximately over $11,000 in their lifetime for menstrual needs.

These costs don’t come easily for individuals already struggling to get by on a daily basis.

Despite all of this, tampons and pads remain the most sought-after item in homeless shelters, but the least donated.

For more than 16 million women living in poverty, this can not only be detrimental to their dignity, but to their actual health as well. Reusing menstrual products or not using them at all can lead to a higher rate of infection and other serious medical conditions. This isn’t even including the psychological damage that can occur.

Kylyssa Shay, an activist and writer, shared her experiences of living on the street while menstruating in her article “Homeless Periods: A Problem of Poverty, Dignity, and Feminine Hygiene”.

Shay wrote, “Having a period while homeless is far more disturbing, upsetting, and crude than having a period while homed.”

Shay talked about the lack of dignity and the vulnerability she felt while menstruating when she was homeless as well as the medical dangers she was placed in every month.

What Can Be Done?

With all of this in mind, Nannocare knew that they needed to do something.

This past June, Nannocare donated ten thousand NannoPads to the Midnight Mission to help those who don’t have access to menstrual products on a daily basis.

Midnight Mission is an organization in Los Angeles that provides homeless individuals with a variety of sources and programs to help them become self-sufficient.

Within the three years, the need for menstrual products particularly in the Los Angeles area has increased, with female homelessness increasing by 55%. In just three years.

The need for menstrual products at homeless shelters exists throughout the country, not just in Los Angeles. Along with feminine hygiene products other products that could help homeless individuals who menstruate include hand sanitizer and pain relievers such as Midol and aspirin. Even extra clothes can mean the world if a homeless individual has to repeatedly wear clothing that may have menstrual bloodstains.

There is a lot of work that still needs to be done, but if everyone gave just a little, these individuals could have their dignity and health back.

In the future, Nannocare hopes to work with other organizations and also continue to donate to Midnight Mission.

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