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.