During the Lenten season, I try to be more charitable since this is a time of self-renewal in advance of spring and a new year for the church. Now that I'm about to have a regular paycheck again, I'm already planning out what I could do. I hate donating money because it feels very disingenuous and does not help address any real issues on hand. One of my favorite YouTubers, Ingrid Nielsen, is on a mission to help erase the stigma surrounding periods by encouraging women to support each other and to have open and honest discussions.
I have often thought about this as well, but her work with the philanthropic group Conscious Period brought to the public's attention just how embarrassing "that time of month" must be for homeless women. These women face already face dozens of hardships on a daily basis, and just having a clean bathroom to use is hard to come by, never mind finding a pad or tampon every few hours.
After watching this video, I did some of my own research on the issue and was shocked to learn some of these facts:
In 40 of the 50 U.S. States, stores charge an additional "luxury tax" on pads and tampons. It is for this reason that many people are reluctant to donate them to homeless shelters or emergency disaster relief groups.
As a result, pads and tampons are some of products desperately needed at homeless shelters. Despite the good efforts of homeless shelters that try to afford to stock these products, most women simply have to make do or go without, often risking horrible hygiene issues and event infections.
As of December 2015, there were 60,096 homeless people in the New York metro area alone, including 14,553 families and 23,885 children. This means that single mothers with children comprise nearly 1/3 of the homeless population. Most of these women find themselves homeless through no fault of their own; they don't feel safe in their current living situations and find themselves stuck, unable to find a stable environment for their children while looking for work and unable to return to an abusive environment.
While many would call donations to the homeless "enabling," donations directly to the shelters is not. In fact, many of these shelters have time limits on stays and offer programs for women to better themselves and get job interviews while the shelters provide child care and even schools for their children. The more structure and comfort these women feel, the higher the turnover.
Jersey City has only 2 homeless shelters dedicated to women and children, and I wanted to do something small (for now) that would benefit both of them, but I need some help. These shelters are in need of hygiene kits for the women who pass through their doors, and fortunately, these are only needed once per month. A kit would contain the items listed below, and the goal would be to create as many of these as possible. If I could get several people to support me on this, we could help take care of hundreds of women in the local community!
As someone who has been down on their luck before, sometimes the best boost to feel better about yourself again is knowing that someone cares. Please contact me if you are interested in helping for Jersey City, otherwise please check out the following sites for more information about how you can help in your own community!