By ANNA DIBLOSI, UW Newslab
For many women, menstrual periods are a pain. It’s a hassle to go out and buy tampons and spend a week fatigued. But for those without regular access to a bathroom, shower or basic hygienic supplies, a period is much more than that.
Many homeless women struggle with menstruation, experiencing a loss of dignity by having to ask for hygienic products or even bleed through their clothing because of their inability to fulfill basic health needs (“A Woman’s right. Period,” RC, May 20, 2015).
Liz Andrade founded a grassroots outreach projects called All Cycles Seattle to help. She was inspired by reporting in Real Change and The Huffington Post.
All Cycles began in August 2015 and relies on community donations to provide menstrual supplies to those in need in the local Seattle area. Andrade described the group as “grassroots do-gooders.” In their inaugural drive, they donated 5,000 pads and tampons, 2,000 body wipes and more than 70 pairs of underwear to people at YouthCare.
All homeless or income-insecure people in Seattle with menstrual cycles can receive items from All Cycle’s donation drives. It’s important to the organization to provide the products to all women who need these products.
Jes Olson, co-founder of All Cycles, had also read about the topic in The Huffington Post and knew she wanted to join All Cycles’ mission.
“I was flabbergasted that it was something that wasn’t already on my radar,” Olseon said. “What hits home about All Cycles is that it’s where I live.”
Hannah Stover, the third co-founder of the organization, joined the cause when she felt angered by injustice in the world. Stover saw All Cycles as an opportunity to help stimulate change.
“We’ve started a dialogue that I wasn’t part of before, and we started it for my friends and community,” Stover said.
The All Cycles trio is collecting donations of pads, tampons and wet wipes from community members. The current donation round began Jan. 1 and will continue until Feb. 20 to benefit Peace for the Streets By Kids From The Streets, an organization that provides support to local Seattle homeless youth and young adults.
All Cycles currently has six donation locations including: Deep Roots Tattoo in the University District, Damask Tattoo in Queen Anne, Babeland in Capitol Hill and Vain Salon at three locations in Ballard, Downtown Seattle and West Seattle.
The most needed donation is underwear, Andrade said. People often don’t know what size or style of underwear to donate, so they opt for easier purchases such as tampons. However, she recommends donors purchase their own size, because it’s not about the structure of the item, it’s about being comfortable.
All Cycle typically uses the Internet and social media to spread awareness about their work.
“People in our networks reach out to their networks; it’s a domino effect in the most positive sense,” Olson said.
In addition to dropping off products at one of the drop off locations, All Cycles has set up an Amazon store (amzn.to/1WPXpEV), where community members can order products online to be sent directly to the organization.
The three women put together sealed brown bags containing one month’s worth of menstrual hygiene products and distribute them to people directly on the streets.
The past six months have been a process of trial and error, Stover said. At the end of their inaugural donation cycle, the trio took to University Way in the University District to distribute the donated menstrual products to people in need.
The process felt intrusive and awkward, making direct outreach less effective than they had hoped. Shelters and service providers were better at reaching as many people as possible with All Cycle’s donations. The team brainstorms before each donation cycle to decide on which shelter will be the recipient of their donations.
All Cycles is hosting their first event called “The Red Party” on Feb. 13 at Common Area Maintenance in Belltown (on.fb.me/1PSFOgn) to fundraise and thank the Seattle community for supporting their cause.
“We’re not going to change the world, but we just want to make some people in Seattle a little more comfortable,” Andrade said.