Kylyssa Shay was homeless for over a year in her youth; it lead to her activism in homelessness. She thinks, feels, and has opinions.
Homelessness and Menstruation Make an Unpleasant Combination
There are a lot of things I'd rather forget about from my time spent being homeless; my menstrual periods are certainly one of them. Periods aren't particularly pleasant to put up with anyway, but adding the complication of homelessness brings inconvenience to the level of misery.
Human beings strongly prefer to be clean. It affects how they physically and emotionally feel and how people treat them. When it comes to feminine hygiene, it also affects health.
You probably don't need to have all of these things spelled out for you if you have the imagination of a turnip but I'll talk about them a bit, just in case. I'm not going to pussyfoot around on the issues of poverty and menstrual hygiene; I'm going to be frank, so if you find that offensive, hit the back arrow right now.
Why the Gruesome Photo with the River of Blood?
I thought I'd address the images I carefully chose and spliced to illustrate this piece because I've been questioned about it by a few who found it offensive.
Having a period while homeless is far more disturbing, upsetting, and crude than having a period while homed and possessed of all the gleaming white cotton and super-absorbent miracles modern society has to offer. It's filthier than when one has largely uninterrupted access to hot and cold running water. On the street, it's an unpleasant reminder of vulnerability. Nothing else so absolutely ordinary reminds you that you have a vagina, something other people are quite willing to viciously harm you for, like having a period while homeless. Nothing feels the same disgusting, uncomfortable way as being sick and filthy and not knowing when you'll ever be clean. I wanted an image of raw and miserable vulnerability rendered with crudeness to illustrate all that.
If you are upset or disgusted by it, you are feeling just what I'd hoped you'd feel. It's upsetting and disgusting that homeless citizens don't have adequate access to the things they need for safe, clean, comfortable periods.
It was important to me that the image be horrifying, but still portray a person who was handling an unpleasant circumstance with grace. That was so important to me because I've spoken to homeless people and I've been one myself. It saturates the color of my perspective. When you've suffered indignity heaped upon indignity compounded by lack of sleep and the apparent absence of all human love from your world, the only thing you can realistically hope to hang onto is a desire to handle what you can't avoid with grace.
I don't want any more human beings to have that be their highest hope in life. It hurts knowing that is the highest hope of millions. It's mere survival and everyone deserves to have a life when they're alive.
Toilet Paper Doesn't Cut It, Folks
People who menstuate have been dealing with blood, fluids, and tissue coming from between their legs since before Homo sapiens was even a thing. They have used moss, feathers, leaves, wool, natural fibers, old cloth, milkweed fluff, and probably dozens of other things to soak up their monthly spills of uterine lining. So you'd think toilet paper would be the holy grail compared to an old handkerchief or wad of reindeer moss. It is and it isn't.
The toilet paper you have in your home has been gently handled since you've gotten it, hasn't it? It hasn't gotten wet and it certainly hasn't gotten dirty. That stuff wouldn't be too bad for swabbing below the decks and plugging any leaks. It's still a pain in the arse to keep in place when used as a sanitary napkin and not easy to remove when used as a tampon.
But the toilet paper most homeless folks have access to isn't nice toilet paper; it isn't your toilet paper. It's often stored open in dirty back rooms or pipe alleys. It's been lugged around and just set anywhere before the maintenance person gets to the restroom. After it's been installed, it's been touched by strangers who've gotten feces, urine, or menstrual blood on their hands. It also receives a filthy baptism of vaporized dirty toilet water on it every time someone flushes.
You don't even want to wipe with public bathroom toilet roll anymore, now do you? Now imagine that definitely non-sanitary stuff making rude contact with the privatepprivate of someone you love. The vagina is like the perfect warm, moist Petri dish for growing all the bacteria that public restroom toilet paper brings to the panty party.
Irregular Access to Bathrooms
So public bathrooms aren't perfect and public toilet TP isn't the best for making hand-made tampons, but they do tend to have running water and a small amount of privacy. Unfortunately, most homeless people lack safe, reliable access to bathrooms for many reasons. Businesses close, government buildings close, public toilets close, and homeless shelter bathrooms have lines and other restrictions, assuming one can get into a shelter in the first place and chooses to do so.
Irregular and Often Dangerous Access to Showers
Showers are even harder to get access to than toilets. They're often just as unsanitary as the average gas station bathroom in a bad neighborhood, and may cost money to use.
So if you can't get a shower but once a week, you may start to develop a less-than-fresh feeling in your nether regions when the red tide comes in.
Menstrual Hygiene Items Cost Money . . . and So Does Food
I'm a big list maker. I prioritize things to hell-and-gone given half a chance. I consider an obsession with making the right choices both one of the benefits of autism and one of its downsides. We all have to make choices, but some of them are just too hard to properly prioritize when one is sleep-deprived, hungry, dirty, and blorping out bodily fluids that need hygienic disposal.
Menstruating homeless people find themselves with a nasty joke of a math story problem, and it has no correct answer, only slightly less wrong ones, often when they're in no state of mind to make good choices even if there were any.
I'll admit, I considered shoplifting tampons when I was homeless, and the math didn't work at all with less than a dollar in my pocket, but I could imagine all too well how upsetting it would be to be arrested for stealing tampons.
Homeless People Have Limited Wardrobes
If you get a bit of red on your designated period panties, you can change into another pair and spray the dirty ones with stain remover or even toss them in the sink for a wash. But a homeless individual will quickly run out of changes of whatever item of clothing gets stained if they to carry all their possessions around with them.
Those little period accidents are a lot less frequent when you have access to enough pads or tampons to change them as often as needed.
Rough Sleeping and Lack of Sleep Can Increase Cramping, Pain, Fatigue, and Headaches
A homed person can go to bed at night with a heating pad or hot water bottle and an overnight pad with wings stuck in their comfy period panties. They can take a Pamprin, maybe have a cup of hot tea and a nibble of dark chocolate, and go off to sleep in comfort in thei favorite jammies.
A homeless person may not be able to sleep at night at all because they're on constant alert for predators. They may already be sore from sleeping on the ground and they have no hot water bottle and no cupboard with a bottle of Midol and a selection of teas in it. Homelessness almost guarantees sleep deprivation, which is proven to harm pain processing.
- The Homeless Period: it doesn't bear thinking about and that's the problem
Three interns set up a campaign highlighting the lack of sanitary products for homeless women – now they are taking it to parliament
- Not Quite Enough: The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation | Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Med
An article about the health effects of sleep deprivation, including problems in pain processing.
- Sleep deprivation and pain perception
This paper explores the relationship between chronic sleep deprivation and pain.
What to Put in a Menstrual Hygiene Period Kit for Homeless People
There are a number of options when it comes to making feminine hygiene care kits for those with insufficient access to running water. Kits should contain hand sanitizer and cleansing wipes. Instructions for use and disposal or storage of the items included in the kit are also a good idea. There are a few choices to make after that.
I've given examples of a few different kinds of kits to give you some ideas of how to make up a few yourself, if you so choose. Please keep in mind that these are just ideas and however you use them is good. I'm sure just about any homeless person who menstruates would be thankful for whatever pads or tampons you give them.
These kits can be assembled in quart or gallon-sized Ziploc bags to keep their contents safe and dry.
Kit Idea 1: Super Basic Menstrual Hygiene Street Period Kit
- hand sanitizer
- cleansing wipes
- a package of pads or a package of tampons
Kit Idea 2
- hand sanitizer
- cleansing wipes
- a package of pads
- a package of tampons
Kit Idea 3
- hand sanitizer
- cleansing wipes
- a package of pads
- a package of tampons
- a pack of panty liners
- a bottle of pain reliever
Kit Idea 4: Slightly More Eco-Conscious Very Basic Kit Idea
- hand sanitizer
- cleansing wipes
- a menstrual cup
- printed instructions for use
Kit Idea 5: Slightly More Eco-Conscious Period Kit Idea
- hand sanitizer
- cleansing wipes
- a menstrual cup
- cloth pads
- pain reliever
- printed instructions for use
What Types of Products Are Best for These Kits?
In this section, I discuss what specific types of each product would be most useful for someone experiencing menstruation while homeless.
I think the thin, individually wrapped pads with wings are the best all-round choice for pads to include in a care package for homeless recipients. They are less likely to chafe when a person is doing a lot of walking and the wings help them stay stuck to underwear through a lot of moving about. They also work for light or heavy days and the individual wrappers help protect the pads and keep them clean until they're ready to be used.
Overnight pads that are longer may also be advantageous because they provide more coverage, reducing the possibility of leaks.
While tampons without applicators may be better for the environment, they are a bit dicey to insert with fingers that may not be sparkling clean and minty fresh. So I'd highly recommend tampons with applicators that are individually wrapped in plastic to keep them clean and pristine as new fallen snow until needed.
Any individually wrapped, unscented panty liner with decent adhesive that covers most of the bottom of the liner is a good thing. Liners with very little adhesive coverage have a tendency to come loose, so they should be avoided. Scented liners can irritate and may not smell good to the person who gets them. Scented liners may also serve as a reminder that another choice has been made for them in an already out-of-control world. And trans men likely don't want to be perfumed at all.
Any menstrual cup that's made of silicone and has an easy-to-grip removal stem would be a good choice. Silicone is good because the cup can be heat sterilized if necessary, it's pliable and long-lasting, too. Cups that come with sturdy storage containers are always a plus.
I recommend getting the clear, unscented hand sanitizer that comes in pocket-sized bottles without any colored plastic beads in it. Those plastic beads aren't doing the environment any favors and nobody wants to find little sparkly bits on their used sanitary napkin.
Forget the branded "feminine" wipes, get flushable wet toilet wipes instead. Those little feminine wipe packets seldom have enough cleansing liquid in them and the wipes inside are often tiny, folded things textured like hand wipes. The wipes intended to help people wipe their bottoms cleaner in the bathroom are bigger and softer and much better at cleaning things up. The unscented kind of whatever wipe you get is best as some people are sensitive or even allergic to scents, especially when used near delicate skin areas.
Period Pain Reliever
Pamprin, Midol, Tylenol, Advil, and their generics are all pretty good for relieving menstrual pain. While one of the formulas intended for menstrual pain relief, like Midol or Pamprin, would probably be the most welcome, any pain reliever would be a blessing.
Rebuttals and Preemptive Rebuttals of Some Ignorant Comments
These remarks are in no particular order and may expand to include rebuttals to more ignorant comments and questions once this article starts getting some more of its own. Most of these are based on remarks I've seen on Twitter and in the comments of other pieces on homeless people's problems getting the pads, tampons, and other menstrual hygiene items they need. A few are rebuttals to comments made by people in response to this webpage specifically.
1. If people chose not to be homeless, they wouldn't have these problems.
This one is easy. I've already written an entire editorial about poor choices and homelessness and another about reasons people become homeless. How about you go give them a read?
2. Why are you saying taxpayers should spend money on buying pads when it could be better spent on drug testing these people and training them how to flip burgers and stock shelves?
Give a person a pad today and they'll be comfortable for a few hours hours; teach them how to flip burgers and they can interview for McDonalds with a wad of toilet paper in their underwear and a trace of menstrual blood on their hands a few times a month until their fifty-something. See how it doesn't really compare to the old 'give a man a fish' bit? Escaping homelessness isn't as simple as getting a job and getting out.
3. Why not just let the job creators keep the tax money so they can create more jobs so no one will be homeless?
Just like 'thug' has become a code word used to replace the frowned-upon 'n-word' amongst those of conservative bent, 'job creators' is a code word for all wealthy people including those who will never put a single penny of it back into the economy if they can avoid it. We get it; you're against helping poor people on the public dime.
The article doesn't even talk about the public dime. It only guides people to see the problem and suggests how they can do something kind about it. I doubt the same people who would want to give feminine products to women, trans men, and girls would be interested in giving money to corporations in the hopes they'll hire those homeless folks instead.
4. Shouldn't we be putting our efforts into stopping the human trafficking trade (or fill in any other cause in this spot) instead because it's much worse?
Ah, there's always something worse or more important, isn't there? I guess we all ought to just crawl under our blankies with our handguns and do nothing at all if we can't do everything. And, do tell, what can we do to help victims of human trafficking (or other cause)? There's no reason people can't direct their attention and compassion toward more than one thing.
There are also some things people are better equipped to help with. If I can't do surgery for underprivileged children because I'm not a surgeon, does it mean I shouldn't help construct a Habitat for Humanity home in my neighborhood even if I can hang drywall? Packing some menstrual hygiene products in a Ziploc and giving them to every homeless person you see doesn't require a lot of time, money, or skill.
5. Doesn't welfare already provide this stuff?
Nope. That's a big NO. Many homeless people in the US do not qualify for any aid but food assistance and tampons and pads cannot be bought on a food card.
6. Won't homeless people abuse the pain medication?
There's really no recreational use for over-the-counter pain medication. You could kill yourself with it by overdosing on the Tylenol-based products but it is a very slow and painful way to die. We get it; you think the poor recipients should be allowed to suffer pain if they can't afford a home.
7. Won't they drink the hand sanitizer to get drunk?
Since the average person would be so eager to use it for its intended purpose, it seems highly unlikely. If you think it's a real concern and not just your desire to treat them as lesser beings, you could add sanitizing hand wipes to the kits instead of the more convenient little bottles.
Why, of All Things, Write About Homeless Periods?
The question people really should be asking me is why didn't I do it sooner?
Homelessness really messed me up and I wasn't fully put together or even fully grown-up before that. Even before my parents left, I had issues dealing with periods. I have autism which interferes with my ability to interact with people already, but on top of that, I lived in some degree or other of poverty during most of my childhood.
Speaking up about my menstrual needs was never easy, not even to my mom, who was extremely empathetic and pragmatic. Part of it was my difficulty getting the courage to verbally express myself, but a lot of it was that I knew how tight the money was. I hated making my family spend money on me; I hated it so much I even tried to hide it when I was sick, so I wouldn't cost the family a doctor's visit. So when my period started, I tried to handle it myself, with wads of TP stuffed in to plug the flow.
I still felt bad about using extra toilet paper. I remember my dad saying, "Jesus Christ, Nancy, what's happening to the toilet paper?" and me feeling like a thief. It's a good thing he noticed, though. If my mom hadn't been a very perceptive woman and guessed at my needs, I might have never stopped tucking toilet paper into my underpants.
Something about how much I depended on the actions and rules of others to stay clean and comfortable during my period began to upset me when I got to Junior High and school worked differently than it had before. There wasn't enough time between my classes to use the bathroom, a situation complicated by many other girls also needing to use the same bathroom between classes, which created lines. Not all teachers allowed students to use the restroom during class time, either.
Even as I got older, went to high school, and grew more confident in dealing with period issues, it still made me feel like my body was out of my control, that embarrassment and humiliation were one wrong adjustment of the underwear or one poorly crafted question away. I was clueless.
I wore my pads oddly and they were the thick, cheap kind. When I heard the whispers of other girls saying they could see my pad I wanted to disappear. I tried cutting the pads down, removing some of their stuffing, and even wearing tight underpants over my underpants to try to squash the embarrassing bulge of napkin. None of those things were good ideas for a large number of reasons and they all lead to further embarrassment. Kids are brutal.
My body decided I didn't have enough embarrassment, inconvenience, and pain in my life or something round about my sophomore year of high school. I started having nasty periods that came with serious cramps and lasted ten days to a month, starting and stopping unpredictably. I started referring to them as question marks instead of periods because I never knew on any given day whether or not I'd be bleeding.
I went into homelessness already feeling lousy about my long, heavy, unpredictable periods. Then my life went to complete and utter crap.
My momma told me when I was little that I must always, always wash my hands with soap and water before touching my privates. When it came to teaching me to use pads, she reminded me of that advice. Since I was absolutely fascinated by science, I understood germ theory well enough to recognize the wisdom of her words and take them to heart. Within two weeks of losing my home, I was without access to running water, changing pads behind bushes, and wearing the same underwear for days in a row. I was also losing my mind as only a recently raped young adult with Aspergers and OCD wondering whether she's seeing menstrual blood on her hand or if the knife wound on it has reopened and bled through the bandage, can do.
Later, after a different assault, I drove myself nuts one evening trying to figure out if the blood in my underwear came from my uterus or from the healing knife injury to my privates. Me and homeless periods didn't get along so well.
I didn't even want to have a vagina, much less be reminded of its existence in an embarrassing way. But it's not like I, or any other person, ever chose to be born with a uterus that sheds its bloody lining once a month.
So homeless periods are emotionally-charged and a little bit triggering to so much as think about. That's why it's taken so long for me to write. That's also why I feel it's a good thing to do.
It would have been a kind thing if anyone had helped me out with feminine hygiene products when I was homeless. Perhaps writing about it will help others who are looking for ways to be more kind, more aware of the human beings who need help within arms-reach.
"Period: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth"
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2015 Kylyssa Shay
Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 02, 2020:
Marcelle Flowers on January 29, 2019:
Divinely found your blog. Just this morning a beautiful soul approached me to ask for money to wash her sleeping bag. As she stood back away from me, probably embarrassed by her current state, I couldn't help but notice the blood dripping down her legs. I was engaged in a conversation with a gentleman and she quickly pulled her sleeping bag in front of her legs to cover her obviously unexpected situation. I have never felt so useless as a woman and so undone as to the perils of our less fortunate. I applaud you for this article and have vowed to be a part of the solution this very day. Bless you on your journey.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 21, 2018:
They are hygienic if properly washed, but as hard as it was just keeping enough underwear clean day to day, I doubt cloth pads would be a good fit for most homeless women.
LXSMom on October 19, 2018:
I made this comment earlier, but I am not sure if it posted. I have found patterns on Pinterest for people who want to make their own pads, and some from agencies wanting volunteers to make them to send overseas. I am tempted to make some for homeless shelters. How do you feel about them? They do have to be washed and most people who use them don't advocate for bleaching them due to environmental concerns. When my underpants got stained, I threw them out; how hygienic are these reusable fabric pads? They have quite a following amongst homesteaders. Thank you!
lxsmom on October 19, 2018:
How do you feel about washable pads? I've found some patterns for them on Pinterest. People are asking others to make them to be sent to developing countries, but I think using them here for the homeless is a good idea for me. They do need to be washed out, though, which I understand is a problem.
Arthur Bhutic on June 26, 2018:
I'd buy high waist full butt brief panties for homeless periods!
Henrietta Dunkley on April 30, 2018:
Just a few days now, my husband and I have found ourselves wanting to help our homeless, this has been for sometime now, we have always helped when we could. Wanting to sell our home, build something paid for, and help others!!! Right now ourselves, we are self employed waiting on our money, Work has been done,
Donnamarie on March 06, 2018:
Thanks for being courageous and sharing this part of your story. Much love to you
Nell Rose from England on July 03, 2017:
Wow! how stupid am I? I never thought of this! let me explain. my best friend a few years ago lived on the street. It was a long way from my town but I used to take her stuff to help her. long story, she didn't want to stay with me a lot was going on in her life. but it never dawned on me to take sanitary protection! she never asked, so I didn't know. what a great hub! I will remember next time.
Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on July 01, 2017:
This is an awesome article. Homeless periods is something I never thought about, but because of your article, I will vow to get my daugther and donate female sanitary kits to a local homeless agency in Phoenix. Thanks so much for this tip, I'll never forget it.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 16, 2017:
Please drop me a link to affordable period panties so I can tell readers where to buy them or at least what to buy. Menstrual cups are about $4 online, but not every woman will accept them, so I'm looking for a source of menstrual panties that are cheaper. The expensive Thinx version work great, but the inexpensive bamboo panties I've seen billed as menstrual underwear on eBay don't actually work well enough. I bought some to try them out and they did not even serve well enough as tampon backup for me and I have light periods now as I approach menopause.
I'm creating a tutorial to make your own starting with an inexpensive pair of underwear, but I'm still in the research and development phase of it. I've got the shapes and layers right, but not the fabric. I think I've found a possibly genius (or possibly stupid) solution that most American homeless women will have access to and it will be cheap enough they can do it DIY, but I have to try it out to see if it works. Who knows, I might ruin a pair of pants on it, but I'm not homeless so I have clothing I don't mind staining. My hope is to come up with instructions and hand out bags with one finished pair and enough pre-cut materials to make their own underwear into period panties along with a sewing kit and a laminated pattern that has the instructions on it.
tashinator on June 15, 2017:
Thank you for such an article . It was clear and informative. I watched a video about the same issue as you mentioned. You have given few options in which we can help women who are homeless. The one i really like is the menstrual cup but you mention that there is a higher chance of their items being lost or stolen etc. I like the menstrual cup because it produces less waste but then there is the thing you mentioned. However, i came across period panties. I checked the reviews and they seem to be good reviews and much cheaper than menstrual cups. Let me know your thoughts on the practicality of the period panties and if they can be a better option for homeless women. Thank you
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 27, 2017:
I knew I needed that third, unknown option! I've compared being homeless to being at war by siege because so many other elements of it line up, like the random people trying to stab you while you're sleeping and so on. The true horror is that there are far too many soldiers who come home and end up on the streets trying to stay alive without any backup. Thank you for your insightful comment.
Chrystine Collins-Blums on March 26, 2017:
Fortunately I have never been homeless but I have been a soldier in a predominantly male Army so understand about not being able to perform proper hygeine, horrible menstrual pain I couldn't treat, not being able to get to a bathroom, running out of supplies, etc. Soldiers in training environments or combat zones have little control over their lives (see there was a third option.)
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on December 29, 2016:
Thank you for looking for ways to be kind to others and thank you for raising a kind and thoughtful daughter! Helping homeless women and girls get the supplies they need to be cleaner, healthier, and more comfortable during their periods doesn't take much money, but it makes a huge difference to them emotionally. It may sound corny, but small acts of kindness save lives.
Amy on December 28, 2016:
I'm so glad I stumbled across this article! My 13 year old daughter started her period last month and along with it came excruciating cramps, and excessive bleeding. For 6 days straight. One of those days, while she was laying on the couch, with a heating pad on her abdomen, she said "mom, how do homeless women do it? This is terrible. I can't imagine being homeless and having to deal with this". Both of us realized we needed to do something about that. Something to help. Thank you soooo much for your recommendations on "kits". That is so incredibly helpful in getting us started. (Just knowing where to start). Thank you for this article.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on November 19, 2016:
Please bear with my sharing of this older piece. I haven't updated it substantially enough to warrant it, but that's not the reason I'm sharing it.
Things are happening in my life that remind me time is short and life is hard. So as I have the strength, I plan to share those things I wrote to try to help others find more ways to express their love. The idea that someone may find a new way to be kind from something I've said is a great comfort to me in a time when I'm feeling so helpless to take away the pain and fear of those I love. Unfortunately, life never seems to hand me anything easy to do like fighting off a lion with a toothpick.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 15, 2016:
You are fortunate to have such a sweet and compassionate niece. I would have cried with happiness when I was on the street if anyone had given me anything intended purely to make me feel better about myself. It shows a special sort of considerate love to care about how homeless women feel. I've encountered so many people who are resistant to giving or sometimes even letting homeless people keep what they have during my time volunteering and writing to spread awareness that I think I've been subconsciously afraid to suggest any luxuries no matter how small.
I've also known people who were beaten by homed people for owning something nice and I personally experienced frightening harassment for wearing clothing above my social status on my way to a job interview. For me, people's anger at me being dressed too well got scary even though it got no more physical than a cluster of women screaming at me and shoving me down the sidewalk, preventing me from reaching my interview clean and on time. It was scary because this group of four women were acting like a miniature mob and it felt like they were herding me somewhere to hurt me. It was emotionally horrible because they ruined a chance at escaping my awful life. I don't know that I'd have gotten the job if I had arrived clean and not shaking, but I'm guessing my chances would have been a lot better. The clothing wasn't even my own. Some small part of me blames those four women for the things that happened to me on the street after that and before I landed a job.
But you know what? To heck with them! I think the idea that poor people should lead lives of absolute austerity, not even accepting anything that isn't necessary to stay alive (and only the most inexpensive versions of those things) needs to be demolished. Even though I didn't really realize it until right now, I have given too much power to those four women and to everyone else like them. They don't deserve it, so I'm going to try to take it away by educating people to the value of small, loving gifts and to the value of feeling like a part of society that not everyone wants to destroy. Your comment and ideas came at just the right time for me to hear them and to act on them. Thank you!
Pepper on July 14, 2016:
My niece has been putting together packages that not only supplies the items that you have mentioned, also little things like a tube of lipstick, tube of mascara, piece of costume jewelry, hair clips, etc. Anything that might help someone feel a little better about herself. She has been doing this for over a year now in memory of her younger sister who has passed. She now has a huge support group of not only family and friends, but her place of employment has gotten involved. The main area that they are donating to is Camden, NJ but also other intercities in southern NJ.
scensibles on January 26, 2016:
Finally we are starting to talk about periods and homeless women and others who struggle economically to provide an adequate supply of sanitary pads for themselves and their daughters! Groups, businesses, individuals are organizing drives and parties to collect feminine care products. Contact us at @scensiblesbags and visit @padparties to learn more.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 10, 2015:
I would not be surprised if your mom had similar problems as women living in poverty so often do. Poverty seems to provide an endless supply of indignities, but I think this is one of them that is fairly easy to help out with. I think giving women the pads and tampons themselves rather than money is very helpful. It takes the food or pads (or medicine or diapers or homeless shelter fees, etc.) decision off of them and prevents mothers from feeling guilty for spending money on themselves. Thank you for reading and thank you for looking for new ways to express your kindness.
Yves on October 09, 2015:
Frankly, I'd wondered about showers and menstruation problems of homeless women, but, duh, I never thought what to do about it. Now I know and I am very grateful to you for being so specific!
My mother raised my brother and I on her own, and because she had no real skills, we were dirt poor. I remember her mentioning years later that she didn't always have underwear. I have a feeling that she probably had these issues with sanitary napkins too. Luckily, we had housing and one uncle, in particular, would let us live with him for a time until my mother found other housing. Anyway, I digress. My point is that you've reminded me to get off my butt and do something to help homeless women. I hadn't thought of Midol and wipes, but that's a great idea. Thank you for writing this important piece, I am sorry you had to go through all that crap. I've always considered homeless people very brave to not "end it all." I still do.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 27, 2015:
true, having period when you are homeless is a big mess. When I am out of pads, i used to wrap up my bloody pad with clean toilet paper rolls and keep changing new toilet paper every few hours per day. It could last 5 days without changing a new pad
Janu Jeevan on June 26, 2015:
Thank you for this article. It is very informative.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 17, 2015:
Thank you for reading and sharing. I hope that more people become aware of this issue. I hope to live to see the day when this page doesn't mean anything except from a historical context because poverty has become a thing of the past. Meanwhile, I hope more people will start to take action as they see and learn about what is going on around them.
I've learned that most people are willing to help others, have a desire to help, and only need information to get them started.
Suzie from Carson City on June 17, 2015:
I commend you for taking on this topic and for doing such an impressive job of including all important aspects.
It is quite necessary to discuss, in order that those who can help in terms of donations, will be certain to do so.
You're right Klylyssa. This is not something that is readily considered and yet it's an issue that truly requires attention.
You have presented this vital info in an appropriate manner and for this, I thank you. UP++ pinned.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 17, 2015:
@Bob a.k.a. no body
Thank you for your comment and for being so considerate of your wife's needs. Sadly, many women don't have anyone to care about their needs. I think it's up to all of us who can to step up and help however we can.
Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on June 16, 2015:
I am pulled in so many directions that my mind actually hurts! I have so much in my head about this that I'm tempted to write a hub! But maybe I can be concise and won't need to...
Any time a man starts any explanation with the words: "Most men would avoid this comment box like the plague... but I'm not like most men..." you rest assured that I'm considered weird and unusual by many people that know me.
In my literal interpretation of the Scripture my understanding of the physical relationship of married men and women is that the two are "one flesh." When a man generally says what one flesh means he says that "the husband is to care about what she cares about. He is to see that all of her needs are met sexually and emotionally." They SAY that but when the cramps come and the frayed nerves of menstruation comes they make themselves scarce. They purposely avoid all physical aspects of maintenance. They will not know or even go to buy any supplies for her. They will plan their schedule to include things to not even be in their wives presence during those few days. In my opinion, it is a spiritual crime against women that husbands do.
I can't tell you how long I knew I was going to share my life with a woman in wedded bliss. I was a very young boy (probably about 14 or4 15) and I was reading everything I could get my hands on about what women have to go through. I was going to be able to be brave and strong for my wife when she needed me the most. I learned from my dad that an understanding silence and the offer of a tummy rub helped my mom through something horrible she suffered every so often. I learned from watching her and my watching other women that each woman needs something different from their man. Some want isolation and to be pampered at their whim. Some just need their man to understand that she is not comfortable.
Life experience made me like an a gynecologist's "Igor" companion. I now knew too much to be useful (I thought). I really did think of her period as "our period." I knew all about what was considered normal periods and I knew that I was supposed to know those things for my wife. She was constantly saying to me, "Do you think this is normal?" And I often replied to her "No!" At my request she would make appointments with the doctor. She would go to the appointments with questions that I wanted her to ask. I know the doctor was getting upset with me but damn it, I knew something was not right. I have been married before for 20 years, gone through things and I had all of this knowledge.
She changed doctors twice before the fateful day I got a call and said she needed me NOW! I shot home in a flash to bright red blood all over the bathroom and all in the tub, the volume was amazing. I called 911 and my sweet wife had lost 4 pints of blood! She came very close to dying yet her doctors kept telling her that maybe her period problem was weight related or "that her period just had to take its course," "The period would just have to bleed until it was done." [my paraphrase].
What had happened is that uterine tissue (clots) tore some major capillaries and she was not bleeding menstrual blood but bright red blood from her veins... now one hysterectomy later, we are period free.
So with that all in mind, I am horrified at the thought that a poor woman would have to be ignored by their husband who was giving her space to "get over it." Or so much worse, the woman on the street can't even clean up all that sticky mess. I didn't miss my life's calling. I was called to be a Christian husband. I just wish I could make more men understand how very important their wives are. How very much a little consideration goes when these things happen. I voted up and useful and interesting. Bob.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 10, 2015:
This is an important topic, something making so many women miserable and depressed and I truly wish I'd been able to make myself write about it much sooner.
You are so right about not getting a period while homeless being even more disturbing! After each rape, it was Hell waiting even a day for that miserable period to come and I cried with relief every one of those times when it did. I knew several women who were absolutely terrified they were pregnant after assaults but were lucky in that they were just not having their periods from stress and hunger. I knew one woman who was not at all lucky in that way and I have no idea what happened to her.
It's something I never, ever considered until I was homeless myself and then more or less blocked out afterwards. I think that if we can just tell other women about this problem, they'll understand it immediately and care about it on a gut level. From responses from the men in my circle of family and friends, they understand it and care about it, too. They just seem to need a little bit more information to get to the same understanding.
@all of you
Thank you for reading and leaving such kind, supportive comments!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 10, 2015:
This is such an important hub and hats off to you for writing on this subject. Most of us would not even think about it, I mean the problems faced if the females are in such situation.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful and much needed hub, spreading awareness. Voted up!
ReadDeeply on June 07, 2015:
The only thing that shook me more than getting my period when I had no home and few, sometimes no, safe places to go, was not getting it. Thank goodness I was able to start Grad. school that Fall (student loans permitted me the financial base to get a new apt.) or I believe I would have miscarried again. The homeless in our country are like lost souls. At least, it sure felt that way.
social thoughts from New York on June 07, 2015:
Thank you for sharing your story and providing so much information. I hadn't thought about this, which is a surprise. I am sure most reading this, who haven't been homeless, will be similarly surprised they hadn't thought of it. I hope this inspires more articles from you and others. This topic is so important!
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 06, 2015:
Unfortunately, Planned Parenthood doesn't provide pads or tampons to low income women and they probably can't afford to.
I'm delighted to see you here looking for new ways to be kind.
Karrie Sue on June 06, 2015:
I think that this is a wonderful article and I applaud you for writing it. I have honestly never given this topic much thought, which I feel almost ashamed to say, but I completely understand how this would be a major issue for the poor and homeless. I was wondering if planned parenthood would help provide items? But regardless, your link to the cup on amazon is actually a blessing because that is the cheapest I have seen them!!! so thank you!! I sew a lot and love idea of making this kits with re-usable liners and pads (I just worry about the clean up then, good thing rainwater and sunlight can clean anything). Again, great article and thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront of peoples minds, people like me who want to help but do not necessarily know how!