When you see a homeless woman, I doubt the first thing that crosses your mind is whether she’s on her period. For most of us, actually, menstruation is the last thing we think about when we see someone who doesn’t have a home. We’re just not trained to think that way, even though many of us menstruate every month — and are very aware of that fact. However, the majority of homeless women who get their periods each month don’t have any access to the hygiene products we take for granted every day.
Tampons, pads, panty liners — you name it, and they’re probably wishing they had it.
That’s where Chelsea VonChaz comes in. She’s the badass founder of the #HappyPeriod Initiative, a nonprofit that gathers and distributes menstrual hygiene products to homeless women in eight different cities across the country. Hello Giggles spoke with VonChaz about her work, who told us about the event that inspired her to start #HappyPeriod.
It all started when VonChaz was stopped at a red light last year while driving in L.A. when she saw a homeless woman crossing the street. The clothes she was wearing was old and dirty, and VonChaz says the bottoms she had on could hardly be considered clothes at all. “It was kind of rags,” she said, rags that were visibly stained with menstrual blood. “I was on my period that day,” VonChaz shares. “I was probably at the red light for a minute and some change but it just felt like forever.”
Her first step was to get in touch with homeless shelters in the area and find out if something was being done for menstruating women like her.
She found out that tampons and pads were hardly ever donated to the shelters — but men’s razors were given all the time, along with shampoo and conditioner.
That’s when VonChaz got to work. She busted her ass to get in touch with companies and organizations that could potentially help her distribute menstrual hygiene products to the homeless. Her next step was to reach out to smaller, woman-owned companies, which proved to be an extremely successful endeavor. #HappyPeriod is now partnered with amazing companies like Kali, an organic tampon delivery service, and the period underwear company Thinx.
“I call them the period posse,” VonChaz beams. She says it’s been so rewarding working with these powerful women who truly care about menstrual hygiene issues in the homeless community. Instead of pulling teeth to just get in touch with someone who works at a corporation, she can just pick up her phone and call any of these hard-working women whose passions are aligned with hers. They’re constantly working together to bust menstrual taboo and educate people everywhere about menstrual hygiene. Um, can we just say, we are such fans.
Our favorite part of #HappyPeriod is how hands-on they are. They don’t just arrange for tampons and pads to be delivered from afar, by calling and emailing. They’re on site at homeless shelters, every single month, handing out bright yellow bags of menstrual hygiene products directly to homeless individuals. VonChaz says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Homeless women line up every month and wait for the #HappyPeriod team.
When she first started distributing the products, there was one woman in particular who stood out in her mind. On the second or third month VonChaz started coming around with the yellow bags, the woman said to her, “I was waiting for you. I was here last month and I wanted to come back and see you to make sure you weren’t bullshit.” I’m sure she learned that neither VonChaz nor #HappyPeriod is bullshit. They really do walk the talk. They’ve only been doing the work since last year, but they’ve already spread out to Miami, New York, and Atlanta.
As if you needed yet another reason to love these ladies, get this. They’re huge advocates for the LGBTQ community. VonChaz made sure she explained to me that #HappyPeriod recognizes that women aren’t the only ones who get their periods. There are some trans individuals out there who menstruate as well, and they need tampons and pads just as much as the rest of us. It’s a message that needs to be spread.
Are you psyched? Do you want to get involved? You totally can! We all can. VonChaz says you don’t have to have any special skills to get involved. You can even start small by spreading the word about #HappyPeriod and similar organizations that are dedicated to providing homeless individuals with menstrual hygiene products. Share their stuff on your social media accounts. Send related articles to your friends and family.
You can also lend a helping hand by calling your local homeless shelter and finding out whether they distribute menstrual hygiene items to the community. If not, donate a few boxes of tampons and pads yourself. Better yet, get in touch with the #HappyPeriod Initiative. Maybe you can help them set up shop in yet another city. Because let’s face it, the more places they do their work, the happier periods we’ll all have.