Rayna Blackburn, who has been homeless on and off for the past several years, tells Portland street paper Street Roots how she would fashion her own pads when she couldn't afford them or find any at local shelters.
|Periods can be a nightmare for homeless women. REUTERS/Andy Clark|
When turning to shelters for help, Rayna adds that she has sometimes been offered nothing but a paper towel. "I've seen [other women] take tampons and rinse them out and reuse them," she says. "It's not OK."
Unsanitary products, a lack of clean spaces to change a tampon or pad, or using the same product for too long can all lead to serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infections, such as toxic shock syndrome.
Some shelters and aid agencies keep small supplies of pads and tampons on hand, but even then, they are available only to those who ask.
"These are really natural needs but the idea that these topics are private doesn't only exist in the society but also within individuals," says Nadya Okamoto.
|L to R: Giselle Cohen, Vincent Forand and Nadya Okamoto.|
Since December 2014, it has delivered more than 350 care packages across Portland, which contain enough pads, tampons and fresh wipes to last a woman six days, the average length of a period.
The project aims to empower women and destroy the view of pads and tampons as mere "comfort items".
Camion's co-founder Giselle Cohen adds that, "if you don't have the supplies to handle your own body, you can't advocate for yourself in the same way. You can't be looking for a job during that time. So that's four to six days a month where you have to basically be secluded."
Public support for the project, which now works with 50 volunteers, continues to grow. Street Roots is among many organizations now partnering with Camions of Care to distribute the packages
As of January 2015, Camions of Care expanded their service to homeless women in Salt Lake City, Utah through a partnership with Legacy Initiative. You can read more about their work here.
This is a summary of an article by Ann-Derrick Gaillot originally published by Street Roots. It has been made available to other INSP members via the INSP News Service here. (Photo of Camion's founders by Reuben Schafir).