World Homeless Day: Homeless women and 5 things to consider

Today is World Homeless Day, and World Mental Health Day. The two, very closely go hand in hand. Being homeless is both mentally and physically challenging, with little help and support available.

There are an estimated 100 million people throughout the world living without a roof over their head, a basic human requirement, that many of us take for granted. And in the UK, homelessness has increased by 10% (as of 28th September 2016), due to a housing shortage, price increases and welfare cuts. So it is difficult to imagine what it is like in poorer countries.

FlowAid is a campaign to provide sanitary products to homeless women in London, and who are working with major charities and other campaigns/organisations. Homeless women and periods is a conversation that isn't often bought up, or considered. But not having access to clean sanitary products causes health implications, physically and mentally for these women, who are already often considered invisible.

I have seen several posts today of things to consider to help tackle homelessness, but I haven't seen one specifically for women. So here it is, five things you can consider on #WorldHomelessDay to help make these womens’ lives more bearable, today and everyday.

1. Sanitary products aren't available for free, unlike condoms, and have a 5% ‘luxury’ tax attached to them. And they aren't often available at shelters, or they have a limited supply. Offer to buy a woman a pack of sanitary products, instead or as well as offering money or food. They will be greatly appreciated.

2. Prolonged use of sanitary products can cause toxic shock syndrome, which is caused by bacterial toxins. If untreated, in worse case scenarios, this can cause death. If you see someone who could be suffering, call an ambulance instantly.

3. Homeless women are harder to find. They hide, are moved on often and are often protected in groups or by individuals. It is more beneficial to donate directly to shelters as that is where a larger group of females will be found. They will be thankful for the donations and they will go directly to the women who need them.

4. As well as sanitary products, homeless women also lack other essentials including painkillers, hot water bottles and clean underwear. And they are moved on from place to place affecting their mental wellbeing. So think what a difference, a pack of clean sanitary products can make, easing comfort and worry.

5. Periods are affected by our lifestyle. Poor diet and nutrition, lack of cleanliness and drug and alcohol use can all affect periods, making them irregular, causing infections and a lot of pain and ongoing discomfort. Consider these factors that homeless women have to deal with on a regular basis, in addition to being moved around constantly with a lack of resources, money and comfort.

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