Menstruation and Homelessness

According to Huffpost, a box of tampons costs about $7. With an average of 4 tampons used per day for a period lasting 5 days, and the average person with a uterus menstruating for about 38 years, this adds up to over $1,770 spent solely on tampons. This does not include pads, panty liners, medication for cramps, new underwear, or birth control.

This cost is an inconvenient, but necessary expense for most people who get a period each month. But imagine that you have to choose between that box of tampons and food for the week. That box of tampons and medicine for your kid. That box of tampons and new shoes, socks, a warm hat, or an umbrella. On top of all that, you also do not have reliable access to a bathroom, shower, or laundry services, and that pair of pants you have on is the only pair you own.

For the over 216,000 homeless people who identify as women, and many of the 3,700 homeless transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, this is their reality each month.

As a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member, I saw an opportunity to address this problem for the homeless population of Jacksonville. After collecting pads, tampons, liners, and other hygiene products from friends, coworkers, and community members, I assembled period kits. Each bag contained a mixture of tampons of various sizes, pads, liners, and either soap, shampoo, or wipes. I spent a few days distributing the kits by walking around downtown Jacksonville and asking anyone who seemed like they might benefit from a bag if they would like one. The vast majority enthusiastically said yes, even if they were initially a bit taken aback by being offered tampons and pads. I also distributed bags to local homeless shelters, including Trinity Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and City Rescue Mission.

These bags will not solve the problems of those facing homelessness. They won’t give them a safe place to sleep, access to healthcare, or consistent meals. Changes like that don’t happen overnight. But for the individuals that received those bags of tampons and soap, I’m hoping it will make a small difference the next time they get their period.

This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps member, Laura Gilligan

Laura serves at Hubbard House as a Health Educator.