North Texas Daily

Donation drive seeks to meet needs of homeless with sexual health, menstrual products

Donation drive seeks to meet needs of homeless with sexual health, menstrual products

Donation drive seeks to meet needs of homeless with sexual health, menstrual products
February 26
09:00 2021

One student has brought together the political science department and university organizations for a menstrual hygiene and sexual health donation drive for homeless people in a time where they are more in need due to COVID-19.

Hillary Shah, political science and economics senior,  organized a donation drive from Jan. 25 to March 15 to address the sexual health needs of homeless individuals. She is the first winner of the Vivian Castleberry Trailblazer Scholarship, an award given to students with a history of human rights work, who wanted to use the funds to start another initiative regarding women’s rights. 

Homeless people can have an increased risk for COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Financial hardship due to the pandemic can also make it more difficult for homeless people to access menstrual hygiene and sexual health products.

Many of the shelters Shah spoke to in the Dallas-Fort Worth area said they had a heightened need for menstrual hygiene and sexual health products because of the pandemic. 

“The biggest reason I was drawn to this [cause] was because it was so taboo,” Shah said. “In the beginning, I thought I was going to get a lot of pushback considering the stigma, but the shelters have been really accepting and willing.”

Boxes are available in the participating campus offices for drop-off. Shah said she aimed to collaborate with university organizations that were sympathetic to her cause and visited by students daily.

“Our role is simply to help provide a voice to Hillary’s project, by posting flyers in our department to emailing the drive’s information to faculty who may like to help,” Political Science Department Chair Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha said. “I think that academic departments, whether individual members or the entire group, should they choose to, can help use their profile to raise even more awareness to these and other important issues.”

Despite a variety of the DFW  shelters Shah spoke to having increased need for such products due to the pandemic, Denton’s own nonprofit, The Junction, has continued to receive steady donations. 

“We distribute [menstrual] products to our guests daily,” Junction Executive Director Wendy McGee said. “They are donated regularly. I have been working for this organization for three years in that time we have never purchased these items due to inadequate supply.”

Shah told the North Texas Daily she does not have a concrete numerical goal for donations, but a soft goal to get more people to talk about the sexual health needs of the homeless. Alongside distributing individual product donations, Shah will make period packs that have enough products to last a person an entire menstrual cycle. She hopes to make at least 100.  

“We’ll see how it goes, but I won’t be disappointed if I get less,” Shah said. “I’m just hopeful that if I even get just one person aware of this issue, it brings more attention to the homeless population’s needs.”

Accepted product donations include tampons, sanitary pads, condoms, panty liners, menstrual cups, feminine wipes and cloth pads. Donations can be dropped off at the SGA office in Union Suite 344, the Pride Alliance office in Union Suite 372 and the political science department office in Wooten Hall Suite 125. Monetary donations to be used to buy products are also accepted through a QR code found on the drive’s flyer.  

“Denton has a large hidden homeless population,” Shah said. “They’re our neighbors. They’re our community members. They deserve to not feel ashamed [about their sexual health], just like we do.”

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Ileana Garnand

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