How Feminine Hygiene Care Packages are Helping Homeless Canadians

homeless woman

“The moon is the most sacred time a woman goes through, her cycle, and we need to remind these women at their lowest time they are still sacred. They are still loved.”

– Robin Raweater of Keeping Families Together (via Global News)

Homelessness poses its fair share of challenges for everyone who experiences this adverse event. For women, who account for a vastly smaller portion of the homeless population, living unhoused can be incredibly isolating, not to mention frightening. Homeless females face a myriad of unique dilemmas. One of those is the lack of available feminine hygiene products.

Enter Alycia Two Bears, an Indigenous woman who started a “moon time bag” project with just $375. Now, just 18 months later, she has made a significant difference in the lives and hearts of countless people.

Turning the Tide: How Moon Time Bags are Shining Light on the Crisis of Homeless Indigenous Women

According to the Northern College Indigenous Council on Education, a woman’s menstrual cycle, alternatively referred to as her “moon time,” is a highly regarded and sacred time for many Indigenous People. It’s described as a “time for women to relax and take it easy” while becoming physically, mentally, and emotionally cleansed.

In some Indigenous traditions, women do not lift a finger during their moon time of the month, meaning they do not engage in ceremonies, nor do they toil with household chores. As you might imagine, this concept makes moon time that much lonelier for Indigenous women who are suffering through homelessness, who can barely even find sanitary products, let alone a space to relax and reflect on their purpose.

Statistical data published by Homeless Hub shows that Indigenous Canadians are 8x more likely to experience homelessness than non-Indigenous Canadians. In some urban spaces, Indigenous People account for as many as 90% of the overall homeless population. That number is more shocking when we consider that individuals from these ethnic backgrounds only account for 4.9% of the overall Canadian population.

With an eye on the current crisis, Alycia Two Bears, a woman who strives to provide culturally appropriate medical care for Canadians from Indigenous backgrounds, saw a chance to turn the tide. She immediately started putting together care packages brimming with personal hygiene products handcrafted to make Indigenous women experiencing homelessness in the Calgary region feel included, accepted, and loved.

What’s in a Moon Time Bag?

Each moon time bag is a care kit complete with products that are either practical, comforting, or both for a menstruating woman. Common contents include:

  • Pads
  • Tampons
  • Pantyliners
  • Sage
  • Chocolate
  • Lip balm
  • Herbal tea and something much less tangible… love

The bags are all part of a wellness initiative where volunteers gather downtown weekly to give to their neighbors in need. Members of an organization known as the Bear Clan Patrol, whose mission is the restoration of communal harmony, safety, and piece, hand-deliver the bags, making the entire experience a personalized one.

“Everybody deserves dignity of care,” explained Alycia Two Bears in an interview with Global News.

This is just the sort of heartfelt kindness and consideration that should be spreading. The good news is… It is.

Canada’s Government Just Approved a $25 Million Budget Toward the Collection and Distribution of Feminine Care Products

Like Alycia Two Bears, the Canadian government has also recognized the need for a shift in policy. Their idea of turning the tide is Changing the Flow, an advocacy program bent on the collection and distribution of feminine products for vulnerable people in need. Its mission relies heavily on multi-use products, and the budget has already reached a jaw-dropping $25 million in funding.

Critics of the program claim it could skip over the people who need it most, namely Indigenous women living unhoused.

In an interview with CBC News, Gabrielle Trepanier, the spokesperson for the advocacy organization Bleed the North, left the following quote on the subject:

“Oftentimes, we have folks like Indigenous folks or people who have menstrual disabilities who get missed in these programs because there isn’t that lengthy consultation.”

Scratching the Surface of a Difficult Subject

Many government officials and concerned housing advocates have pointed out the need for more discussions on these complex subjects that intertwine. Firstly, we need to ask ourselves what’s driving the need for more access to feminine care products and how such commodities have grown so expensive. Next, we must grapple with the growing crisis of Canadian homelessness and how it has historically disproportionately affected people from Indigenous backgrounds, and why it continues to do so.

Also meaningful are conversations about creating culturally sensitive ways to connect with people experiencing homelessness from different ethnic backgrounds. These moon time bags are all about bridging that gap that separates culture from the human identity, reaching out and saying, “I see you, and I respect who you are as a person.”

 Yvonne Henderson, a Bear Clan Patrol volunteer, described that connection between spirit, home, and people as “the biggest gift they can get.”

Advocates are also working on putting together bags for Indigenous men experiencing homelessness, a project lovingly referred to as “warrior bags.”

Talk to Your Legislators About Canadian Homelessness

With the federal government putting together funding packages like the one mentioned above, now is the time to contact your local legislators and urge them to advocate for victims of the homeless crisis, of all backgrounds and walks of life. Can’t you feel the tide turning?


Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith

     

Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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