The short film highlights the drastic measures some homeless women are forced to take

“I’d probably just use a sock and roll it up,” explains Fiona bluntly. For women like Fiona, sleeping rough means access to sanitary products can be difficult to come by.

Rolled up socks and napkins are just two of the shocking methods homeless women use to deal with menstruation, according to a new video documentary. Created by journalist Laura FitzPatrick, the video highlights that, whilst there are initiatives in the city centre designed to support homeless women during their time of the month, more needs to be done to support vulnerable women in Manchester. 

Manchester has one of the highest figures for rough sleepers in the country, following Brighton and two inner-London boroughs. This year’s Greater Manchester count found 268 rough sleepers, up from 189 in 2016. However, charities warn that this does not reflect real figures.

For homeless women, getting your monthly period is more than just uncomfortable, it is a degrading experience that can pose health risks.  

18 03 13 Manchester Homeless Women Video
"We are still people at the end of the day" - Louise features in the video

 “We’re hearing a lot of reports about the use of socks, tissue paper – anything they [homeless women] can get their hands on really,” explains Hannah Barnes, co-founder of The Crimson Wave, a volunteer-lead group that supplies free menstrual products to vulnerable women in Manchester. Reusing things over and over again, which as we know, because of toxic shock syndrome, is a really big issue.”

Toxic shock syndrome is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. The condition is often associated with tampon use in young women and can be brought on when menstrual products are not changed regularly, meaning that homeless women are particularly at risk.  

“We are still people at the end of the day,” comments Louise, who regularly sleeps rough in Manchester city centre. “Just because we were in a difficult situation last night that doesn’t mean that we’re any less human than anybody else.” 

18 03 13 Manchester Homeless Women
Fiona revealed the drastic measures she takes to stay sanitary during her period.

How can you help?

  • Support one of Manchester’s initiatives to supply free menstrual products to homeless women, such as the Monthly Gift MCR, The Crimson Wave, Every Month MCR. As little as £1.50 can help provide a sanitary pack for a vulnerable woman to have a safe period.  
  • Donate sanitary products to homeless shelters – the Booth Centre, Mustard Tree and Wood Street Mission accept donations of sanitary products. Many foodbanks also accept menstrual product donations – enter your postcode here to find your nearest foodbank

  • Share the #homelessperiod petition campaign to help raise awareness of the need for shelters to haven extra funding so they can purchase menstrual products for vulnerable women. Shelters currently get an allowance from the government for items like condoms, but nothing for sanitary products.