When we think of the needs of the homeless, we often focus on two specific things: food and shelter. However, it is naïve to assume that those two things alone satisfy basic human needs. For homeless women especially, there is a significant lack of availability when it comes to sanitary products and even underwear.
Dignity Matters, a Framingham-based 501(c)3 non-profit, was founded by Kate Sanetra-Butler in 2016 after she was asked by a young homeless woman in Copley Square for a spare tampon. After doing some additional research on the topic, Kate realized that there is a desperate need for feminine sanitary products and underwear. Many people falsely believe that these basic necessities are provided by homeless shelter services or for people who receive SNAP benefits (food stamps.) The reality of the situation is that SNAP benefits don’t cover things like sanitary napkins or bras and homeless shelters just can’t keep up with the demand. Even public schools in Massachusetts can’t guarantee that they can provide these products and they aren’t required to.
Having a period is not a choice. Every woman gets it every month, yet there are thousands of women and girls who cannot afford the $10 a month for sanitary products. Because of this, these women and school-aged girls are forced to either resort to unsanitary alternatives or skip school/work altogether. The same is true for women who cannot afford to purchase bras and underwear. Dignity Matters seeks to bring attention to this urgent issue and works with different agencies to ensure that no woman has to live without dignity during her period.
Many of the women that Dignity Matters help are single mothers, low-income or homeless, or women and teens who have escaped domestic violence and cannot return home. Over 40% of women in homeless shelters are employed but cannot afford housing. These women need assistance getting back on their feet, and taking time off of work just because they have their period is often not an option.
Hygiene products, bras, and underwear are almost never donated to shelters. Through donations, fundraisers, and drives, Dignity Matters collects these items and works directly with shelters to distribute to women in need. They also host “bra-events” where women in the shelters are measured and properly fitted for bras.
Through their programs and the generosity of others, Dignity Matters was able to provide 265,000 bras, pairs of underwear, and feminine hygiene products to over 50 homeless shelters, some of the poorest public schools and after-school programs for kids living in poverty and domestic violence programs.
Please join us in supporting Dignity Matters and their work in fighting a crisis happening every day for women and girls across the country.
Interested in donating or hosting a drive?
Visit www.dignity-matters.org to find out how you can help.
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