When thinking of what it means to experience homelessness or sleeping rough, many of us immediately contemplate what we personally perceive to be the 'core' issues, for example, safety, food and shelter. There is no doubt these are central issues.
However, there's another challenge that many of us miss, which, according to the 2016 census, is experienced by 42% of the 116,000 people sleeping rough each night.
The menstrual cycle, experienced by women, non-binary people and trans men.
A person experiencing homelessness Melbourne, Australia
Credit: Andrew McKinney
Sanitary goods are essential, yet over-priced and often financially out of reach. Affording menstrual items can be challenging, especially when food and shelter are a core priority. Lack of access to these crucial products may lead to an increased feeling of shame and insecurity. This over time can be corrosive. Many may also face an increased risk of infection, due to being forced to use unsanitary facilities, as well as unhygienic sanitary items.
Often already dealing with the physical and mental toll of a multitude of issues, prioritising the purchase of sanitary products can be a much harder feat.
The good news is that the National Homelessness Collective - an Australian grassroots organization, providing solutions to complex social issues - is taking action. In 2015 they established a sub charity called The Period Project.
The Period Project is an initiative that provides support, menstruation products and essential living items to women, non-binary people and trans men experience homelessness and housing uncertainty.
Through volunteers, including at-risk and long-term unemployed women, 'Period Packs' filled with a combination of sanitary items, disposable scented bags, gloves and hand sanitiser are assembled and distributed to those in need.
Period Packs assembled in Melbourne.
Credit: ABC News; The Period Project Melbourne
These packs alleviate the financial barrier of accessing sanitary products, simultaneously helping to manage menstruation without the need for a bathroom or public facility if it isn't available. This can subsequently reduce the risk of assault, as they do not have to leave their safe spaces.
To fill these Period Packs, The Period Project is supported by the generosity of the public to donate one pack of sanitary products or $5 for the sanitary products to be bought on their behalf. Each $5 donated helps to make and distribute a single pack. As The Period Project is volunteer run, donations are imperative in enabling this essential work.
We at Respond would love to have you on board in our fight for a more just world. To get involved in opportunities supporting a range of social justice initiatives, head to https://www.respond.org.au/.