Homelessness is a women’s issue in several ways: women are significantly more likely to experience poverty, and sole parents – mostly women – are at particularly high risk of homelessness.
Women living on the streets are also at high risk of sexual violence, rape, and sexual trafficking. In one study, 92 per cent of homeless mothers had experienced severe physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, while in another, 13 per cent of homeless women reported having been raped in the past 12 months.
But there’s one difficult aspect of women’s homelessness not often discussed: the difficulty of getting your period while living rough.
Maribel Guillet, a single mother living in a New York shelter, recently told Al Jazeera America her period, which lasts about 10 days, is extremely difficult to manage without a private bathroom.
Her heavy flow requires changing her pad “every 20 minutes” — and while she tries to wash at her uncle’s apartment over weekends, restrictions on bathroom use at her shelter, make menstruation particularly difficult for her.
“Sometimes the lady’s [shelter supervisor] nice. Other ladies is not,” she told Al Jazeera. “Some of them won’t work with you.”
“Gas stations and public buildings were my best friend, I’ll tell you that. I took ‘whore baths’ in sinks at gas stations and did my period business in there,” one formerly homeless woman wrote in the thread.
“We called them ‘pirate baths’ but yeah, beaches and gas stations have public restrooms. Hand dryers with the nozzel twisted upside down= hair dryers, and paper towels= makeshift pads,” another agreed.
Other formerly homeless women shared more detailed practical solutions involving socks, toilet paper and even towels.