Why do homeless women need access to free sanitary products?

Women who are homeless often don’t have enough money to pay for basics such as sanitary products, pregnancy tests or even access to clean water. If they do have a small amount to spend, they would tend to prioritise other things, for example: food, clothing, sleeping bags or a place to stay for the night. We believe no woman should ever have to live without proper sanitary products which is why we have created Period Friendly Points.

What do women do if they don’t have towels or tampons?

The women we support are incredibly resilient and will ‘make do and mend’. This means they’ll use toilet paper to make towels and tampons, they’ll use handkerchiefs, spare pants or material they have to hand, even on occasion using newspaper.

What difference would free sanitary products make?

First and foremost it’s about dignity and the ability to manage periods in addition to the other challenges like feeling safe. Free and easily accessible sanitary products means the women never need to ask, never need to make do and never need to go without.

How are you going to reach women who can’t access Period Friendly Points?

Our Street outreach teams carry compact portable Street Pax  that have two days sanitary protection, wipes, disposal bags and pants. These Street Pax can be refilled by our teams or exchanged for a full pack by our teams.

Why are you creating Period Friendly Points?

We want women to have the sanitary products they need, but more than that we want women to have a safe place to take care of themselves and access to advice if they need it. Many of the women we support have nothing but the clothes they stand in, including underwear. A clean pair of pants, a welcome place and people that care are more important than you could imagine when you’re on the street. Sometimes a chat and some reassurance is all it takes. This is why we’ve created Period Friendly Points – a place that women can discretely and with dignity get the products and support they need.

Are homeless women’s periods regular?

If your body fat is below 10% your periods are likely to stop. Athletes and females women with eating disorders often experience this. Many of the homeless women we support are very thin as they have irregular access to food and what they eat isn’t always nutritious. This means their periods are can be irregular too. Drug and alcohol dependency also causes irregular periods. All this can make it difficult to plan and can enhance concerns that they may be pregnant.

How do homeless women deal with period pains?

Not easily. No sleep, little food and being cold and miserable doesn’t in anyway help you somehow manage pain and discomfort. Through our links with local pharmacies we can access free analgesia through the minor conditions arrangements.

Have you thought about the women using Mooncups?

We spoke to women about Mooncups or Menstrual Cups but the feedback suggested it would not be easy for them to wash/clean their cups, most thought is was a bit fiddly and there was a concern about where to keep them between cycles.

How do you know other people aren’t going to take the products at the Period Friendly Points?

We don’t, but then we encourage that any women in need would use the facility, homeless or not. We believe that whilst some people may take more than they should overall there are more generous people out there who will support us to provide free and accessible products to women in need.

Are wipes really the best way to look after your hygiene?

No, the best thing to use is simply warm water. Part of staying healthy is maintaining healthy bacteria in your body and sometimes wipes can change your pH and make you more vulnerable to infection. With our Pax we’re looking at women who don’t have access to water, or much else. The wipes we’re including are designed specifically for feminine hygiene so the benefits far outway any  potential disadvantages.

Are Sanitary products not going to be free in Scotland?

Monica Lennon MSP for Central Scotland is proposing a Bill that will ensure free access to sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities. Simon Community have always made free sanitary products available in out services and we support Monica’s proposals to tackle Period Poverty.

What is the Homeless Period?

The Homeless Period are Oli, Josie, and Sara who met as interns at a London advertising agency. They found the issue made them think about homelessness in a way they hadn’t before. They have set up a great site raising the issues they encountered and sharing the experiences of homeless women during their period. You can visit the homeless period at www.thehomelessperiod.com

What is period poverty?

Poverty as a whole rose by 2% in Scotland last year resulting in 1.05million people in Scotland living in Poverty. Period poverty highlights the choices and sacrifices women and girls make in order to make do and mend or go without other items like food in order to get sanitary products. The experiences of the women we support tells us that the erratic nature of their periods makes it difficult to plan for and when they do occur they often have no cash to buy sanitary products.

How can I help?

Premises: If you have a premises that has accessible toilets you could become a Period Friendly Point. We will supply you with the signs, stickers and products to get you started and then provide you with support and refills to keep you going. Contact us today if you’re interested.Cash donations: We do need cash to keep the supplies going  so that we can reach more women. We have arrangements in place with suppliers to get more ‘bang for our bucks’. A one off or regular donation will support us to make sure dignity and good health for women comes as standard. Please click here to support Period Friendly PointsVolunteers: Our Period Friendly Pals help refill the Points and collate packs. Contact us today if you’re interested.