For the 50,000 homeless women living in the U.S., having their period is more than an inconvenience. Lacking access to sanitary pads or even a place to shower, homeless women are often forced to improvise by using socks, paper towels, plastic bags, or even their limited clothing items.
“Not only is it terrible, but it’s also embarrassing,” admitted Kailah Willcuts, 27, who said she had been homeless for more than eight years. “Not to mention that now you have this stain on your pants. I only have the clothes that I’m wearing, so I’m standing there half naked, bloodied, you know, washing my clothes out.”
As far as dealing with her period goes, things might be getting easier for Willcuts. New York City, where Willcuts currently resides, recently became the first city in the country to require public schools, jails, and homeless shelters to provide free pads and tampons.
“You shouldn’t have to decide between a pad and having lunch,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who helped champion the legislation. “It’s about dignity and women understanding that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this process. Once we take the taboo away from this product, then we are really empowering women.”
Unfortunately, for many homeless women, shelters are still considered too dangerous to visit — even for free sanitary pads. “I won’t do it, I can’t do it,” said Courtney, a homeless woman living in New York, when asked about visiting a shelter. “I choose to be out here in the streets.”
Watch interviews with homeless women from Bustle’s NSFWomen docuseries below.
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