What’s the worst thing about getting caught short on your period?

If you’re anything like me, you probably have spare tampons or towels stuffed in random bags or pockets. Funnily ever, it’s never that bag you have on you when you find yourself mid-flow. You can use all the apps and period trackers you want but our bodies are funny things: sometimes, we’re just plain ol’ unprepared.

Worst case scenario? Either going without until you can find a shop (or get home), or make like a high school bra and stuff it with toilet paper until you find a shop (or get home). It’s annoying, but it does the job in the interim. When you do re-stock, you load up enough supplies to get you through the next 5-7 days and repeat, ad nausaeum, the following month. Whatever your preferred method of management- tampon, towel, moon cup- they’re always convenient.

When I was in school, you never dared admit your period had appeared unannounced. Period positivity has progressed a lot since then. We’re opening up a dialogue now. Hey, if you want a tampon so badly and you’re in a public toilet, you can even ask the person next to you. No one’s going to laugh. The worst they can do is say no.

We have such ready access to sanitary products. Recently, Tesco became the first chain to roll back the tampon tax. It was a nice thought that the 5% levy (for the luxury of having a period) would go to charities but it was revealed in April of this year that £250,000 had been funnelled into anti-abortion charity, Life. Not the charitable giving we first envisioned. Instead of supporting women, the money was now going to organisations intent on taking choices away. Tesco’s renege on the tax brought the conversation about its abolition back into the headlines and- fingers crossed- the rest of UK might just follow suit.

I digress, but it’s to make a point. Periods are becoming a part of our everyday discussions and we’re never likely to really get caught that short. In our cosy bubbles, enveloped in privilege, it becomes a funny anecdote. When you think about it, our access to products, information and apps really are a ‘luxury’.

Sadly it’s one that many women can ill afford. That wad of toilet paper you stuff down there for an hour or so? 61% of homeless women have to make to with toilet paper, newspaper and even rags for the duration of their period. Not just once, but multiple times. Considering the average period lasts five days that’s a long time to go without. Periods are often longer, heavier and more painful in the winter. We have painkillers and hot water bottles. Imagine how traumatic this must be when you barely have a roof over your head.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Simon Community, allow me to brief you. For more than 50 years they’ve been reaching out to people in an attempt to combat causes of homelessness, provide help to service users and make them feel valued. They’re now launching a brand new service to help the 500 homeless women they support across Glasgow (and countless more beyond). Their Period Friendly Points (PFPs) will, initially, be locations catered specifically towards homeless people, with the hope of expanding into other organisations.

PFPs will be specifically tailored to meet users’ needs, supplying sanitary products, wipes, pants, disposable bags and information. For further peace of mind, pregnancy and infection tests will also be available. Lack of nutrition and a healthy diet often lead to irregular periods. With around a quarter of female rough sleepers admitting to being sexually assaulted, they need all the assurance we can offer.

It’s not just about free tampons, though. PFPs will also have staff on hand to whom they can chat to about any issues or queries, or even just open up to a sympathetic ear.

70% of homeless women have never even spoken to anyone about their period. Not a friend, relative, colleague, no one. The Simon Community found that the lack of period conversation among homeless women often stems from traumatic incidences in childhood, and they want PFPs to help fill that gap.

In addition to this, the Simon Community’s street teams will also be handing out Period Friendly Pax which can be refilled by the street team or at a PFP.

I’ll admit that until recently, I was quite ignorant of this. I didn’t realise how many organisations like The Simon Community need sanitary products. When we think of food bank donations, we think of tins and dried food. It was only after my son was born- and subsequently grew so fast that we had a lot of unopened nappies- that I asked my local bank if they needed any baby supplies. To my surprise they said they were desperate for them: nappies, baby milk, wipes, toiletries and, yup, sanitary products. It’s something we take for granted, but could be a lifeline to someone in need.

The Simon Community have made it super easy for people to get involved: a five day period pack costs £15 and you can choose to donate £5, £10 or £15 by texting PFPR28 and your chosen donation to 70070.

You can also become a Period Friendly Pal. By donating a couple of hours a month or week, you can:

  • Visit PFPs to restock supplies
  • Collect donations and sort them into Pax (and refresher packs) at their Glasgow warehouse
  • Raise funds, awareness and products to maintain the PFPs and pax
  • Support and promote issues faced by homeless women, offer a listening ear and be of support for the women to whom the Community reaches out
  • For more information, check out their website here

Whatever you can do to help, it’s worth knowing that even the smallest donation- whether it’s money, time or supplies- can make a huge difference. It might seem like a small step but when it comes to stamping out period inequality, small gestures can mean everything.