Having your period in general can be harrowing experience, but it’s even more so for homeless women. What do you do if you don’t have a pad or a tampon? Or access to a bathroom? Cosmopolitan.com spoke with four women to find out how they deal.
“Anytime that I would get pads and tampons, I would try and get a whole bunch or try to save them up. Other than that, I would try to use whatever I had if it was an emergency. There were occasionally moments when I didn’t have access to anything and I just used whatever was around. Sometimes I would steal things, or try to just go make a few dollars to get pads and tampons. At the same time, my period in general was kind of irregular, so sometimes I didn’t need to use anything because sometimes I didn’t have my period every month.
“When I did get it, I wouldn’t go out, and I would try to stay where there were areas that I could use the bathroom somewhere. I was just really careful when I had my period. It’s so embarrassing because I’d think, ‘Oh crap, what am I going to do?’ There have been times where I’m like, ‘OK these clothes are ruined and I need to go wash them in a sink.'”
“Getting your period when you don’t have pads and tampons is gross. Thank god in California there are organizations that have baskets and baskets of tampons and pads for homeless people. It’s just no questions asked. They don’t tell you, ‘You get this many and you get this many,’ you just take them and stock up so you always have them. But on the East Coast, it’s totally different. Sometimes I would ask strangers for one, but most of the time it was those raw, brown, hand-drying paper towels from the bathroom that’s thicker than toilet paper so that it would get stuck and gross in the same way that toilet paper does. If I didn’t have paper towels, I’d roll toilet paper over my hand like five or six times and use that. When I didn’t have access to a bathroom, I’d take a T-shirt I was not going to wear anymore and use that. Or I’d ball up another pair of underwear that maybe had a stain on them and use that. Sometimes if I saw somebody on the subway who looked about my age and seemed cool and I could talk to them, I would act like it was an immediate emergency, like, ‘Oh my god. Do you by any chance have a tampon?’ Sometimes I would offer to pay for one but, of course, they’re not going to make you pay for it.”
“Dealing with my period when I was homeless was one of the most embarrassing things, because sanitary napkins were very limited at the shelters and often times sometimes they would only give you one to three. Sometimes I’d get money from other people and if I had money left over after doing laundry then I might be able to get a couple. When I didn’t have money or access to those, I’d just use toilet paper and try to make sure I was near a restroom all day.”
“Being homeless and having your period just makes everything else worse. Logistically, it’s tough just getting pads or tampons, but it’s also harder if you don’t have access to sanitary facilities to keep yourself clean. That doesn’t include having cramps and no way to access pain relievers. I was in the shelter and I remember having to ask the staff for tampons. It felt demeaning even though the staff was female. The staff gave me three. She didn’t ask how many I needed, she just gave me three regular tampons. Seems simple enough and it was way better than nothing, however, I needed more than three and something stronger than a regular. There are a plethora of things that are donated to women’s shelters, but in my experience one of the things that isn’t donated nearly enough is feminine hygiene products.”
Many low-income and homeless women often don’t have access to tampons and pads at all. Food banks and shelters distribute them, but they’re often in short supply. Our campaign at Cosmopolitan.com/TamponsForAll lets you donate $7 (the cost of a box) to Distributing Dignity,a charity that provides these products to shelters across the country.
REPOSTED from cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/news/a47596/what-its-like-to-get-your-period-when-youre-homeless/