Free sanitary products offered to homeless women in Glasgow
The products are being added to the kit used by Simon Community Scotland’s street team, which already provides First Aid and other ‘basics’, such as food, needle exchange and sleeping bags.
The addition of sanitary products is a recognition of ‘period poverty’, the growing number of women who are becoming homeless - including rough sleeping in the city - and new, external funding to help pay for the service.
Women will be provided bags containing sanitary products, underwear, wipes and disposable bags, plus credit card-sized information booklets to help women access wider services in the city such as healthcare and housing.
The bags are being labelled, ‘Period Friendly Pax’, and they will be available - and regularly replenished - at various points throughout the city, including day centres and homelessness services.
These ‘Period Friendly Points’ will also offer the chance for women to speak to trained staff, on issues such as personal health and hygiene.
Simon Community Scotland recently surveyed women who use its supported accommodation services, to find 70 per cent of women saying they had never been told what a period is, nor spoken to anyone about it, and 61 per cent also saying they used toilet paper or newspaper to manage their monthly period because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.
The aim, for Simon Community Scotland, is to extend its ‘Points’ and ‘Pax’ services from its imminent launch in Glasgow to other Scots towns and cities - starting in Edinburgh, via site organisation, Streetwork.
The funding has been provided by Simon Community Scotland, with additional funding - £7,500 - from the Big Lottery Fund.
Last week, Monica Lennon MSP introduced a consultation process at Holyrood with the aim of introducing a legal right to access sanitary products, including a duty on schools, colleges and universities to provide them for free in female toilets.
Last month equalities secretary Angela Constance launched a six-month pilot in Aberdeen which will see at least 1,000 women and girls from low-income households receive free feminine sanitary products.
Lorraine McGrath, chief executive at Simon Community Scotland, said: “Homeless women often didn’t have the opportunity to discuss their periods with their mother, at school or with peers as a consequence of traumatic childhood and institutional care.
“The women are often embarrassed to talk about their periods or ask for sanitary products when they need them and have no means to purchase them.
“For women on the street, and even in supported services, they will often choose to buy food, alcohol, drugs or a bed for the night rather than sanitary products.
“And even for those women who use proper sanitary products, they will often use them for longer than they should; therefore risking infection and toxic shock.”
Monica Lennon added: “This is an inspiring initiative from Simon Community Scotland.
“We know that homelessness makes managing periods very challenging and not having access to sanitary products is compounded by the fact that is isn’t easy to access warm water and the privacy of a safe place to look after yourself.
“The added stress of living on the streets during your period and having menstrual blood staining your clothes is an experience that no-one should have to face and I applaud Simon Community Scotland for addressing the unmet needs of vulnerable homeless people.
“Access to sanitary products is about maintaining basic human rights and dignity.
“I’m glad that the Simon Community are taking this initiative forward. It’s also why I’ve launched a consultation on a members’ bill proposal in the Scottish Parliament to ensure that there is free access to sanitary products for anyone who needs them – you can find out more and give your responses on the consultation by visiting periodpoverty.scot.”
Lorraine McGrath said: “Being homeless is bad enough - poor accommodation, lack of sleep and poor nutrition, with only the clothes you stand in.
“Then you get your period. We will provide free, accessible and dignified access to sanitary products, essentials such as underwear and advice for homeless women.
“This project is about providing equality, health, support, opportunity and most importantly - dignity.
“Period Friendly Points will ensure women on the streets do not go without sanitary products and have access to the support they need.”