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Why homelessness and periods just don't mix

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George Washington University

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Why homelessness and periods just don't mix

Many women experiencing homelessness lack access to feminine hygiene products, putting them at risk of serious illness

Erika Zepeda

5.6.17

Homelessness isn’t hygienic, especially when it comes to women's monthly crimson horror show. Generally, human beings strongly prefer to be clean since it affects how we’re treated by society. But when it comes to menstruation, keeping a basic hygiene regimen can drastically affect a woman’s health.
A 2016 study by the The Community Partnership For the Prevention of Homelessness estimated that​ 8,350 people experience homelessness on any given night in Washington D.C. To put this number in perspective, that’s more than half the population of Foggy Bottom, or almost three thousand people less than the undergraduate student body at GW.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty said that “insufficient income and lack of affordable housing” are the leading causes of homelessness. But for women, domestic violence is the leading cause. It was found that 32 percent of women experiencing homelessness in Minnesota reported becoming homeless due to domestic violence.
8,350 people experience homelessness on any given night in Washington D.C. That’s more than half the population of Foggy Bottom.

Women experiencing homelessness don’t have free access to basic feminine hygiene products. I’m talking pads, tampons and large quantities of Midol. Without these, that dreaded part of the month ​truly​ becomes dreaded.

With many women all over the country having to choose between buying tampons or food, many turn to other solutions. A pack of tampons from Walmart has a base price of $7.25, not including sales tax; making it unaffordable for most panhandlers who receive less than $25 a day, according to an investigation​.


Because these women can't afford feminine hygiene products, many tend to go without. One woman said that she used ripped pieces of cloth to stop her bleeding. Others reported folding napkins, toilet paper, paper towels or even socks in between their legs. If these items can’t be found, then these women have to bleed out without any protection, which is even worse than it sounds.

If our country can sponsor tax-free Viagra to men, then we can definitely provide tax-free feminine hygiene products to women.
Women experiencing homelessness are being cornered into a monthly, unhygienic practice.
Using anything other than pads to absorb bleeding, or even using them for extended periods of time, can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTI symptoms are easily treatable when one has access to medication, but if left untreated, they can cause fever, chills, pain in the lower abdomen, and the spreading of infection to the kidneys.

A similar infection, toxic shock syndrome, is caused by leaving tampons in for too long. Symptoms can include sudden high fever, hypotension, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and even seizures.

If the problem is so bad, then why aren’t we hearing about it constantly on the news? Lack of awareness is likely due to the stigma and shame that still surrounds menstruation, yet another example of gender inequity. If federal law still doesn't require menstruation to be taught in sexual education courses, how can society’s male-dominated leadership even understand the issue?
So, dear reader, what can you do to help? Start by following ​#TheHomelessPeriod on every social media platform you own and then basically retweeting, reblogging and reposting everything they publish. Then, you can go to Thrive DC (location here) and donate as many tampons and pads that you can carry. Finally, you can sign the petition organized by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Cosmopolitan Magazine that calls for the end of taxing feminine hygiene products​.

If our country can sponsor tax-free Viagra to men, then we can definitely provide tax-free feminine hygiene products to women.