Men­stru­ation takes place whenever and wherever. Month after month we are men­stru­at­ing. No mat­ter where you live or how you are liv­ing, the life inside your body keeps hap­pen­ing non­ethe­less. Without a toi­let, some pri­vacy and the needed products, how­ever, your period is a whole lot harder than usu­ally, even under nor­mal cir­cum­stances. 237,000 people are home­less in Ger­many, around 30 per­cent of whom are men­stru­at­ing. A fig­ure that we would not neces­sar­ily expect in a wel­fare state like Germany.

Ques­tions upon ques­tions: From what money should the period products be paid for?

Whether we have a place to live or not, we keep bleed­ing. It’s a nat­ural pro­cess. Because men­stru­ation doesn’t stop on the streets. It doesn’t dif­fer­en­ti­ate where you sleep night after night. This unfor­tu­nately cre­ates com­pletely new chal­lenges: What money should be used to pay for the period products? And where can these products be changed in pri­vacy? Where can the hands be washed? What is the solu­tion if you can­not afford tam­pons or pads? Where can the clothes be washed in case a little blood has got­ten on them? Ques­tions upon ques­tions, about which the major­ity of the pop­u­la­tion does not have to worry. For the 60,000 men­stru­at­ing people liv­ing on the streets of Ger­many, how­ever, these are essen­tial ques­tions that need to be answered anew every month. Answers and solu­tions must be found. Because the bleed­ing does not go away any­time soon.

DIY altern­at­ives to tam­pons and the like?

If there is no access or money for ordin­ary period products, then (emer­gency) solu­tions and altern­at­ives must be found. For that cre­ativ­ity is required and teh cre­ation of a DIY pad must be impro­vised. How about self-made pads made out of toi­let paper? Toi­let paper is (usu­ally) avail­able in suf­fi­cient quant­it­ies at least in pub­lic toi­lets. Handker­chiefs or nap­kins are also pos­sible as a sub­sti­tute for pads. An (old) sock or other more or less absorb­ent mater­i­als can also help. But the pos­sib­il­it­ies are not really that great and can lead to infec­tions if they are not clean. What would you do? Do you have any ideas how you could catch your bleed­ing in a hygienic way without spend­ing money on men­strual products?

Being home­less and peri­ods: Could men­strual cups be the solution?

At first glance, men­strual cups seem to be a good solu­tion for home­less people. Because the cup can be used over and over again. Once bought or given as a gift, it can be used for years. How­ever, the ques­tion of where the period product can be changed remains. Although the men­strual cup can be worn longer than tam­pons, it should be emp­tied and rein­ser­ted at least once every­one 12 hours. Prob­lem num­ber two is that a men­strual cup should be ster­il­ized with boil­ing water for a few minutes both before and after the period. How­ever, boil­ing sta­tions are not really freely access­ible to home­less people. There­fore, a men­strual cup may not be as prac­tical as ini­tially thought.

How can we help?

Maybe the topic of being home­less and peri­ods made you think and you are ask­ing your­self: How can I help too? Inform your­self and inform oth­ers. Talk to people about home­less­ness and men­stru­ation, per­haps as well or even espe­cially with those affected. Draw atten­tion to the fact that people who are liv­ing on the streets men­stru­ate monthly – just like the rest of us. Research who is work­ing with home­less people in your homet­owns. Food banks as well as shel­ters are a good place to start. They can give you inform­a­tion about what is needed. Col­lect money or mater­i­al­istic dona­tions to provide home­less people with the neces­sary men­strual products. You would cer­tainly make the days of men­stru­at­ing easier. Unfor­tu­nately, tam­pons and pads are not a lux­ury, but a neces­sity in the every­day life of many people. How­ever, spe­cific needs of men­stru­at­ing people are often simply for­got­ten or not even recog­nised. It is not present in many people’s minds that people on the street have many other wor­ries and fears besides food and accom­mod­a­tion. And men­stru­ation is one of them.

Tips for read­ing and donations 

Unfor­tu­nately, there is still a lot to be done in Ger­many to ensure the sup­ply of and access to men­strual products for all. Much edu­ca­tional work and advocacy must be done. If you feel like read­ing more about this topic, check out this art­icle where people share their exper­i­ences with bleed­ing while on the streets. Unfor­tu­nately, their exper­i­ences are not par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful. If you have a few extra pen­nies and would like to give, you can donate men­strual products online here. And for the peoeple among you that are liv­ing in Ber­lin, check out Peri­odensys­tem – they do a great job and provide home­less people with free period products!

Britta Wiebe, period education, Vulvani
Britta 
Co-Founder Vul­vani | britta@vulvani.com | Web­site | + posts

Britta Wiebe is the co-founder of Vul­vani. She loves research­ing, writ­ing and design­ing new art­icles or innov­at­ive edu­ca­tional con­cepts about men­stru­ation all day long. When she is not trav­el­ling the world, she enjoys spend­ing time with her loved ones in the beau­ti­ful city of Ham­burg in Germany.