Access to Hygiene Products for Homeless Women

As you might imagine, there are many barriers for women that are living on the streets or in emergency shelters in our community.  Immediate challenges that one might think of could be childcare, schooling, and getting their children out of domestic violence situations. Any one of these challenges might be enough to certainly frustrate but have also proven difficult to navigate.

However, a more obvious but still surprisingly easy barrier is access female hygiene products that someone not experiencing homelessness may take for granted. We all know family members or spouses/partners who have come home from a long day at work and then had to travel back out to a local store or pharmacy to get these items even though all they want to do is decompress from a stressful day.  Why, you ask, is it such a challenge or such a large barrier to homeless women to access these items?  As my colleagues run through these reasons, suddenly common sense kicks in and I acquire the knowledge that sheds light on this issue.

Firstly, female hygiene products can be very expensive even though they run normally under $5-6 for tampons or pads depending on brand and quantity.  But let’s think this through.  If you are living in an emergency shelter and have no income or have a very low income to which you are trying to prioritize all of your other basic needs out of, this need may go unmet.  This means that women experiencing homelessness may prioritize their child’s need for formula (which is not inexpensive) or training pull ups first in front of their own needs.

Next you might say, well aren’t those common items that an emergency shelter or a Homeless Service provider such as HIP would have on hand and free of charge?  The short answer is yes; but female hygiene products are not items that get donated on a regular basis.  Again, most likely due to their high cost in bulk and diverse options, but also because people who are looking to help don’t often think of these items as a “hot commodity” and hard to access. This example applies to many of the daily/weekly/monthly items that those of us who have not been in unstable housing situations, domestic violence, or emergency shelter locations just don’t compute as items that are hard to acquire.  The next time you are thinking of ways to help make things a little easier for women experiencing homelessness, please consider donating these items yourself or holding a drive for the diverse sizes, types, and brands that women in the Indianapolis community can utilize.

For more information on donating items, please contact HealthNet’s Homeless Initiative Program at 317-957-2275 or email

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