Easing the pain: UB student brings #HappyPeriod to homeless women of Buffalo
Uncomfortable and at times extremely painful, periods are never convenient.
For the homeless, who rarely have access to bathrooms – let alone feminine products, this time of the month can be even worse.
Kathryn McSpedon, a junior English major, plans to improve this situation in Buffalo. She hosted the first of what will be monthly #HappyPeriod gatherings this past Saturday at the Gloria J. Parks Community Center on Main Street, which will bring together people who want to help donate feminine products to homeless women and women living in poverty in Buffalo. The group encourages people to donate tampons, pads, panty liners, underwear and even hand sanitizer.
“Anything is appreciated,” McSpedon said.
McSpedon is the first person to bring the #HappyPeriod gathering to Buffalo, but it was originally started by Chelsea VonChaz in Los Angeles.
“The idea for the #HappyPeriod gatherings came one day when I was driving, stopped at a light and I saw this homeless woman crossing the street with clothes that were completely stained,” VonChaz said. “I watched her for a while and saw her squatting, bleeding and defecating on the corner.”
This sight made VonChaz think about what the monthly cycle must be like for homeless women. She asked herself how the homeless could take care of themselves like she would during this time of the month.
VonChaz immediately got on the phone and left messages at various homeless shelters in the Los Angeles area. When none of them got back to her, she took it upon herself.
“I contacted all my girlfriends and I asked them if they would help me get donations together,” VonChaz said. “Some other friends of mine were already going to be giving away food on Skid Row, which is the section of Los Angeles with the most homeless people, so they suggested we just join them, and that was the first #HappyPeriod gathering.”
VonChaz and her friends continued to have these gatherings and they continued to grow. McSpedon found out about them through Instagram and immediately messaged VonChaz about the cause.
“I just thought it was such a good idea,” McSpedon said. “I couldn’t help but want to do it and bring it to Buffalo.”
McSpedon’s first involvement with #HappyPeriod was last April with the help of VonChaz, in which she set up donation boxes around UB where people could drop their donations in at any time. McSpedon then dropped off these donations at various shelters around the City of Buffalo.
There are currently donation boxes in UB’s Health and Wellness Center and Lockwood Library, however this time McSpedon wants to put an emphasis on the actual gathering part of #HappyPeriod.
“The problem last year was that I did more donation boxes but it’s really meant to be a gathering,” McSpedon said. “The flyer says a gathering of girlfriends but I want to welcome guys to come too – moms, aunts, kids, it should just be a gathering of people who want to help.”
McSpedon also wants to increase the interaction between those who want to help and those they are helping. Instead of only dropping off donations to shelters, this year McSpedon will be going to Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo to directly give women donation kits.
The #HappyPeriod gatherings will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on a “come-as-you-can basis,” and will be held on the second Saturday of every month.
Sophia McKeone is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.