It's the first day of your period and you have nowhere to go. No bed, no heating pad, no trusty bottle of Feminax to take by the handful, and definitely no tampons. What do you do? It's the humiliating dilemma plenty of homeless women have to confront every month. It's also the driving force behind The Homeless Period, a London-based petition to make menstruation products more accessible.
According to Crisis, women make up 26% of England's homeless population. That's tens of thousands of women, surviving day-to-day on London's streets, without dependable access to public toilets or menstrual care (which, ironically, is not classed as healthcare).
"This initiative believes that tampons and [sanitary] towels should be made available through homeless shelters, the same way the government provides condoms," founders Oli Frost, Josie Shedden, and Sara Bakhaty write on their homepage, which links to a Change.org petition.
That's where the video above comes in. It features the voice of Patricia, a woman in her 50s who found herself on the streets of South London after she ran out of couches to surf. When she couldn't access sanitary products, she ripped up pieces of cloth and used those instead.
"I used to feel very depressed. It used to get me down," she explains in the clip. "Why does a woman have to rip up a cloth, put between her, to protect herself from bleeding?"
"Patricia's story hit home for me," Bakhaty tells us. "The misconception that someone on the street doesn't mind not being clean. Well, cleanliness is so important. She felt very vulnerable, and then she realised she couldn't carry on like this."
To protect herself — from fluids and from men — Patricia had to be resourceful. If she couldn't get clean, her homelessness became more evident, making her more susceptible to sexual assault.
As of now, The Homeless Period's petition has over 40,000 signatures. 50,000 is their goal; but to get parliament's attention, they'll likely need 100,000.
"It's about finding a long term solution," Frost says. "I think we've had 10,000 signatures in the last 24 hours, so it's starting to look like a real possibility."