Recently a local organization, Line Of Hope Red Deer, who puts on a weekly supper for the homeless, as well as helps to provide hygiene products and clothing to the City’s homeless population, caught wind of the need for feminine hygiene products and is asking for the community’s assistance for donations.
Many homeless women throughout the world struggle to find access to feminine hygiene products. Without access to proper feminine hygiene products, regular restroom usage, and hot showers – homeless women face increased chances of infection.
Marlene Pannenbecker is among the founding volunteers of Red Deer Line of Hope and was recently made aware of the need for feminine hygiene products by a facebook friend who posted a national media outlet’s story on the struggles associated with menstruation facing homeless women around the world.
“When we first started I was approached by a woman and she asked me if I had any tampons or anything and without even thinking much about it I went to my purse and grabbed the few I had in there,” explained Pannenbecker.
“It didn’t even click in my head then that this would be something horrible – they don’t have access to the products, or a place to change, or a place to clean up properly and I didn’t really think about these things and I should’ve then but it just didn’t click for me.
“Now when I look back, I think well, where is she going to go to change? Loaves and Fishes is closed, People’s Place doesn’t open until later. Unless she’s going to go into a convenience store, but the owners usually kick them out the minute they walk in.
“Now that I think about it, I can’t help but think how hard that must be for these women, and it’s something that I hope we can make a little bit easier for them.”
Pannenbecker explained she hopes to be able to gather enough donations to be able to distribute care packages to the women they see at Line of Hope’s weekly suppers.
“It can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about so we can’t just walk up to women and start handing them out, it needs to be handled in a sensitive manner and not in front of men,” said Pannenbecker. “We need to be courteous and not embarrass people, so we hope to have a female volunteer go around and ask each woman privately who comes to the dinner and let them know they can come to us if they need feminine products.”
She added the weekly dinner draws over 100 patrons and sees upwards of 25 to 30 women each week. Line of Hope isn’t the only community resource, however, with a number of other organizations assisting the women.
One of the Central Alberta AIDS Network Society’s many community programs, Night Reach, sends out a team of two individuals with backpacks 365 days a year to distribute a number of things including harm reduction materials, seasonal clothing, first aid supplies, and when asked, feminine hygiene products.
Other community resources include the Outreach Centre, located at 4101 – 54 Ave. which also distributes hygiene products to both men and women on a monthly basis.
Charlie Turnbull, director of outreach services, explained feminine hygiene products are some of the hardest to keep on their shelves. “Anytime someone comes in they fill out a form stating what hygiene products they need and if we have it then we can offer it to them and if not we say sorry, as all of our hygiene products are donated to us,” he explained.
“Feminine hygiene products are one of the only things that the Outreach Centre will go out and purchase if we run out because there is such a high demand for them.”
Turnbull added the Outreach Centre’s hygiene product program isn’t just for the homeless. “If someone is short on their paycheque that month then it may come down to them having to decide if they want to buy food for their children or personal hygiene products,” he said. “And for a mother, that’s no choice at all. So if we can help them to make those ends meet then that’s what we’re here for.”
Both the Outreach Centre and Line of Hope are accepting donations of feminine products, with Line of Hope asking that anyone wishing to donate new, unopened packages may call Marlene at 403-352-2097.