How You Can Help Homeless Women

by Sara Levine

If you're a woman or someone who menstruates, you might dread getting your period every month — aside from the affirmation that you're not pregnant, dealing with menstruation and its side effects (like bloating, irritability, cramps, etc.) is unpleasant, to say the least. But if you're a homeless person who menstruates, periods are much more than an inconvenience — they are a matter of comfort, convenience, and dignity. Bustle's NSFWomen docuseries explored homelessness and periods and exposed the many issues people on the streets face during their monthly period. The good news is, there are ways to help homeless people deal with their periods, and if you're in the San Francisco area, you can help out by attending an event Sunday, March 5 that puts together hygiene and wellness kits and donates them to homeless shelters.

Justine Duran, a salon manager in San Francisco, has been passionate about helping the homeless community in San Francisco. "I began to make friends with my neighbors ... I would sit with them on the sidewalk and hear [their] stories," she says. When Bustle put out the NSFWomen documentary, she finally had an idea of how to make a difference and help the homeless: by making wellness/hygiene kits. She started an organization called Women: Let's Lessen The Struggle and has organized kit-making events across the country. The first event was held in San Francisco and it consisted of 16 women who made a little over 300 kits; the next event in Arizona had 18 attendees and produced 900 kits; Sunday's event already has 55 people expected to attend. And for the record, both men and women are welcome.

The kits on Sunday will include tampons, pads, wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lip balm, a note from one of the donors, and an image and encouraging quote from Rupi Kapur, which Justine calls "the cherry on top to the kits' content." The reception to the kits has been overwhelmingly positive — "the shelters and the people we have worked with have pretty much dropped jaws when they see what we come in with," Justine says.

Even if you can't attend the kit-making event on Sunday, March 5, there will be ways for you to get involved with Women: Let's Lessen The Struggle in the future. Justine plans to hold events in big cities across the country, including Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and New York. Looking to the future, Justine hopes to turn her organization into a full-time job and expand to helping other communities, such as the homeless male population and people in immigration holding centers.

The movement goes beyond just providing pads and tampons. "I really wanted Women: Let's Lessen The Struggle to bridge gaps between communities," Justine says. "When someone talks to you in the street, look at them. Speak to them. I want people to realize that my time, my life is no better or more valuable than anyone else's."

The Women: Let's Lessen The Struggle hygiene and wellness kit-making event takes place Sunday, March 5th from 12-2:30pm at Steel + Lacquer.