Homelessness is something I’ve always felt queasy about. Growing up I could never understand how the government could “let it happen” which as I’ve gotten older has manifested in to sheer disbelief that according to a January 2015 report from Oxfam International, the combined wealth of the 80 richest billionaires is the same as that of the bottom 50% of the Earth’s population – 3.5 billion people.
I’m the person who has bought two of the same instalment of The Big Issue (http://www.thebigissue.org.au/) for fear of one vendor going without, the person who agrees to have their window washed even though it’s about to pour down with rain and the person who for an hour walked down Waikiki Beach trying to give out dinner to the many, many homeless people who sleep on the famous tourist strip.
I’ve always considered myself in touch with social issues and importantly woman’s issues but I’m ashamed to say until recently, I had never thought of how homeless women deal with their monthly visitor.
I have PCOS (poly cystic ovary syndrome) which means my period is not regular and my cycle can vary between 20-150 days. There’s no rhyme or reason, my body is the temple and I’m just along for the ride. Due to PCOS I never actually know when my period will present itself so I can’t “plan ahead”. Last year I was in Sydney and blow me down with a feather along comes my period at 8.30pm. I had 1 tampon nestled deep on the depths of my handbag and still had four nights before I returned home. I had to go to the nearest 7/11 and had to spend about $35 on sanitary items. No big deal. Swipe away Mr Credit Card. Then I proceeded to have a shower morning and night ok the comfort of my own space and deal with the bitch that is womanhood. Just like every other woman on the planet… Evidently, not so much.
In November last year my girlfriend Lenny posted an event called “Essentials For Women of Perth” on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/essentialsforwomenofperth):
“I was talking to a friend this morning about donations at the homeless centre she works at and she mentioned that what they really lack is sanitary products and underwear for homeless women. I dont know about you but I’d never ever thought of these supplies! I was talking about donating a few jackets or something. She mentioned that they get lots of “granny” undies which isn’t great. Not many young women like to wear them but they will if thats all that can be offered to them. My friend said if I know of someone who might be able to donate some female products that would be great.
I walked home a little deflated thinking I didn’t really know one person who could help out. But then I had a light bulb moment! I may not know ONE person but I know SEVERAL people and maybe if we band together we could get something happening. So my idea is a bit crazy but I think some of you are crazy enough to take it on
My idea is that if each of us buy one packet of sanitary products and a pair of undies (think about what you like to wear) next time we go shopping. That way by the end of November, we’d have a good bunch to donate right before Christmas time. ”
She was right – several people DO make a difference. Essentials of Women Perth received over 50,000 in donated items for homeless and disadvantaged women.
Ever so slowly this embarrassing issue is coming to the front of mind for people with recent media coverage.
When you say to a woman “imagine being homeless” they look forlorn and bless their cotton socks they are not. When you say to the same woman “imagine having your period while you were homeless” and you’ll notice their face change to a sorrow from deep inside. It would be horrible, it would be dirty and it would be soul crushing to not have the money to be clean, to have to decide between eating or buying a packet of pads.
That is the reality. Food or some pads.
I’m lucky to be able to buy sanitary items at the jacked up price at a convenience store and I’m lucky to be able to have the two showers a day to feel “clean” when having my period. I bet you are too.
Kelly and I have brought the #Essentials4Women campaign to our hometown of Adelaide and are seeking support of donations of sanitary items and new underwear. Our first campaign in May this year generated over 10,000 items for women in need.
Our next donation drive will be from 13 September – 17 October and ask that you get involved!
We’ve had great support from people across the country through the wonders that is online shopping so if you’re in a position to donate even 1 box of tampons, please do. It really does go a long way to giving vulnerable woman a small bit of self-worth back. Dignity for these women will cost you very little.
The uncomfortable truth is while it’s easy to turn a blind eye to homelessness, it is shamefully all around.