Why We Should be Donating Our Pads to the Homeless
Back in November, the University of Liverpool’s Help the Homeless and Feminist societies joined forces. They created a sanitary packing event which brought an abundance of like-minded change-makers together to collect and pack female hygiene products for the Homeless Period organisation here, in Liverpool. This event took place in Mountford Hall on the 16th November, but both societies work hard all year around ensuring they have done their bit for this organisation- such as putting sanitary collection bins in the public toilets at the guild. Not only was this event inspiring, but it made me question what more can be done to raise awareness to the issues homeless women face on the streets of this very city all year round- and what we can do to help. I took to Facebook to contact the organisation and Bee, a member of the organisation, responded with some important information and advice for those who would like to get involved. Here is what went down:
What do you do on an average day? (Involving the period packing)
As we are a volunteer-led organisation, there isn’t an average day! We all work or study, and are involved with different organisations around Merseyside. We coordinate with other volunteers through our social media pages, organise upcoming events, collect donations and deliver packs to the various organisation we support.
What would you like the readers of Ellipsis to know about your organisation?
The three key elements we aim to have in our work are to:
1. Provide sanitary items
2. Campaign against period poverty
3. Create education sessions around menstruation to remove stigma.
Have you given out products before? Is there a shortage of them in food banks?
There are many amazing homeless organisations and street teams in Liverpool but nothing that specifically focuses on this issue, and sanitary items are not often donated to food banks – though there is often a need for them from food bank users.
What gave you the idea to do this?
The Homeless Period Liverpool founder, Natalie Denny:
“I read an article on Vice that was linked to the Homeless Period Team. Reading these women’s stories of their struggles while being homeless and how their suffering intensified throughout their periods was something that really resonated with me, but up until that point hadn’t crossed my mind. I read all I could and decided I could and would help. I contacted Keeley and Phoebe, the founder and National coordinator of The Homeless Period and they gave me really good pointers on how to get it started and I ran with it.”
The response has been amazing, growing from Natalie, Eva and Pratishka to our last packing meeting, where we had 100 volunteers who helped us pack 200 special Christmas packs to deliver over the coming weeks.
Since we began 18 months ago we have distributed over 800 sanitary care packs to organisations that support homeless and vulnerable women all over the Merseyside region. We started off with one donation station and now have nine and the project has received so many donations and enough support to enable us to branch out into the Wirral and Sefton.
Natalie is a strong advocate for women’s issues and believes we should support each other, especially those that are vulnerable. Ideally, women should have access to sanitary items free of charge similar to how condoms are distributed and The Homeless Period Liverpool will be supporting campaigns that aim for this.
What are the alternatives used instead of tampons/ pads?
There are very few alternatives to using tampons and pads. Imagine having to choose between buying food or buying tampons or having no underwear to change into, or a place to go to when you feel low. Sanitary items which are taxed at 5% and classed as a ‘luxury’ are not cheap. With limited access to sanitary items, some might have little choice but to try to make the items they do have last through a whole period – which can have a huge impact on their health and well being. Positive alternatives to pads/ tampons are moon cups and reusable sanitary pads, which we plan to provide in the future.
Do you think periods are still stigmatised in the media and in politics?
Yes, periods are absolutely still stigmatised in everyday life – including in media and in politics. Tampons being taxed as a luxury item seems to show a fundamental misunderstanding of what having a period is like, and the financial burden it can become to those with low – or no – incomes. The tide is beginning to change, with the huge amount of awareness raising, campaigning and volunteering being done around the country and internationally. The Scottish government is ahead of the rest of the UK in terms of tackling period poverty, as they plan to provide free sanitary products to women on low incomes.
Do you have anything else planned for the future?
In the coming weeks and months we will also be working in partnership with the Red Box project and Labour Party to provide sanitary items to young people in schools free of charge, and we are planning another Wonderful Women event for International Women’s Day.
What can an ordinary member of the public do to help?
We collect donations of wipes, underwear and sanitary items and produce female care packages which are delivered to various projects and shelters across the city.
Our 9 donation stations are at:
News From Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop (accepting donations after Christmas)
Liverpool Homeless Football Club
Big Love Sista CIC
Tomorrows Women Wirral
St James Opportunity Shop
Liverpool Guild of Students
Liverpool Students’ Union.
We have a GoFundMe Page if you would rather donate that way. We also have a volunteer page on Facebook. If you search Homeless Period Liverpool Volunteer Team one of the team will approve you. Here we post all updates and news to do with the project and ways to support it.
You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@HomelessPeriod_) and Instagram (@homelessperiodliverpool)