#HappyPeriod: Nationwide social movement to help homeless women comes to UB
When Chelsea VonChaz was driving around in Hollywood, California, she was taken back by what she saw while stopped at a red light: A homeless woman in rags using the bathroom in the street while on her menstrual cycle.
Immediately VonChaz knew this woman didn’t have access to any feminine products. That is when she came up with hashtag Happy Period (#HappyPeriod).
#HappyPeriod is a social movement made of a group of girls who supply and donate feminine products to homeless shelters and distribute them to homeless people on the streets. UB’s Health and Wellness Center is bringing #HappyPeriod to campus and will start meetings to gather donations on April 23.
Kathryn McSpedon, a sophomore English major, wanted to bring this movement to UB.
In 2012, there were a total of 5,681 homeless people in Western New York, most of which resided in Buffalo, according to the 2012 Western New York Homeless annual report. Eight hundred and thirty four of these people were women, not including women who are a part of domestic violence programs.
“I am very interested in harm reduction, especially for those who get denied access from of lack of status in this society,” Mcspedon said. “I’m talking sex workers, drug users and the mentally unstable who get overlooked.”
McSpedon then reached out to VonChaz after seeing #HappyPeriod on her Instagram page and decided it should be on campus as well.
The first meeting for #HappyPeriod at UB will be on April 23 at 4 p.m. in the Health and Wellness Center in the Student Union. There is a donation box in the office as well as in Daily Planet Coffee on 1862 Hertel Ave.
Donations consist of any sealed feminine products, from tampons to personal wipes. Although the group is not asking for money, it is accepted for the purchase of more products.
These products will be donated to homeless girls and women on the streets and underneath bridges near the I-190. Products will also be given to shelters such as Haven House, Harbor House and Matt Urban Center.
“I thought about all of the complaining I do while on my cycle and how it’s such an inconvenience,” said VonChaz, a 26-year-old Alabama native who lives in Los Angeles. “Then thought about what [homeless women] do when they’re on their period.”
When she thought about gathering items for donations, Tampax and Kotex, two feminine product brands, told her they would not help because she wasn’t a nonprofit. She took it upon herself to create her own movement.
As a first step to creating #HappyPeriod, VonChaz spoke with local homeless shelters to see what kind of donations they accept. She then found out almost all the shelters said women’s menstrual problem were not main concerns. It didn’t fall under the same category as food or blankets. Shelters are more likely to get donations for food, socks and toothbrushes, she said.
#HappyPeriod collaborates with other shelters and organizations that pass out food, water and other resources while the feminine products are passed out.
VonChaz saw how other organizations packed supplies like lunches or socks in bags and three months ago she started to do the same with feminine products.
Once a month, VonChaz holds a gathering where people donate money or feminine products. She then makes 100 to 150 bags filled with five pads, four panty liners, three personal wipes and two tampons. VonChaz gives away the excess supplies to different shelters every month.
VonChaz and other members of #HappyPeriod distribute to people on Skid Row, an area in downtown Los Angeles where the homeless population is high, she said. Women lined up to receive bags, each one appreciative and reassuring the volunteers how great their cause is by saying, “Mine just came on today, thank you.”
VonChaz plans to come launch #HappyPeriod in New York within the next few months. Through the use of social media, the movement has expanded to Toronto, Phoenix, Tampa and UB. In order to expand #HappyPeriod further, the stigma associated with women’s menstrual cycles needs to be gone, according to VonChaz.
“It’s almost as if people think women don’t have their periods anymore,” VonChaz said. “I also want guys to get rid of the taboo that this has nothing to do with them because they came out of the same [body part] that women did.”
There is an ongoing #HappyPeriod fundraiser through Indiegogo Life to raise $5,000 for supplies.
“I truly believe in the power of small acts of kindness, allowing a female this comfort in her natural sexuality will allow her the power to function how she desires,” Mcspedon said.
Gabriela Julia is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org