Cleanliness is a natural desire for all human beings. It affects both physical and emotional well-being. Needless to say, a lack of proper hygiene can also affect body health. A woman’s menstrual cycle is already less than pleasant, but when added to the struggle of homelessness, it can be unbearable.
When a homeless person sits on a street corner, it is likely that someone will give them money, food, or water; however, it is almost never thought of to give a homeless woman menstrual products. This problem is one that is often overlooked in society. While most women are worried about the cramps they suffer from, the hot water running out when taking a bath, or the embarrassment of buying tampons from a male cashier, homeless women have something much greater to fear. What will they use to absorb the blood coming out of them? When will they be able to clean themselves? Will they be able to obtain more clothes that aren’t covered in blood?
A significant amount of this problem can be boiled down to one statement: periods themselves are seen as an embarrassment and are often condemned. When a girl cannot even carry a pad to the bathroom without being afraid of scrutiny, people will most certainly not hand one to a homeless woman. Females are shunned for something that they cannot control. In many cultures, and arguably here in the United States, menstrual products are not considered necessary, even though a lack of feminine hygiene can lead to infection and other health problems. Because of this, menstrual products are highly inaccessible to women in the homeless community, as well as women in prison. Shelters often do not provide these products due to cost or lack of donations. When homeless women are not able to access these products, they are forced to either free bleed or create makeshift products, which are often unsanitary. And when homeless women cannot access proper menstrual products, they become trapped in a vicious and unceasing cycle. Often, homeless people are pressured to find a job. How will a woman attend an interview if her pants have blood stains on them? This is enough of an embarrassment in normal life situations, but even more so in a formal setting.
What homeless women and other women have in common is that they face the same stigmatization of the menstrual cycle. However, most women can at least go to the store and purchase pads, tampons, menstrual cups, or receive some form of birth control from their doctor. This luxury is one that homeless women are stripped of because it is seen as exactly that: a luxury.
Some solutions to this problem include: donating menstrual products to homeless shelters, donating money to organizations that provide products to those in need, or donating them to someone you know. A small amount of effort on one’s part can make a world of difference on another’s. Just by feeling clean, a woman can have the confidence to conquer the world around her.
In a community where lack of food, water, and shelter is already so extreme, women should not have to worry about their own body health and cleanliness. Menstrual products should be viewed as a necessity, and accessibility should be heightened in the homeless community. Then, and only then, can women truly thrive.