Many of you know that up until 2016, I spent five years working at a homeless charity for young people. My work consisted of running a mentoring scheme and other voluntary led support programmes for young people and I got to know the ones I worked directly with very well. So many of them had physical and mental health issues, and one had ongoing chronic pelvic pain with practically every classic endometriosis symptom there was. The battle with her doctors went on for years, and finally they concluded she probably did have endometriosis, but wouldn't operate because she was too young. The distress I saw her going through pained me so acutely and when I look back on it, is probably one of the biggest motivators of starting This EndoLife and moving into supporting women living with endometriosis.
I can't stand the thought of women going through what I've been through, in public, in hostels, on the streets and in potentially dangerous situations. Without a GP, they must struggle to get the right medical attention and even strong enough pain relief. Even a trip to A&E is likely to not get a diagnosis, giving the number of years we have to persistently push to be heard and have the neccessary surgery.
But what's even more painful to think about, is the fact that all homeless women, struggle to get sanitary products. Having your period can be bad enough, especially if you have heavy or painful periods due to endometriosis or other conditions. But having to go through the extra struggle of finding the money to buy sanitary products, or being humiliated because you're bleeding in public takes living with endometriosis or generally just having your period to a level I can't even comprehend.
The Homeless Period is tackling this. The government provide condoms to homeless men in shelters, but not sanitary towels - in fact, razors are more available to homeless men than sanitary products are to women. So the Homeless Period are petitioning for the government to do the same for females and are encouraging people to get involved. Set up by three women; Oli, Josie and Sarah, they support others to fight period poverty through raising funds or donating sanitary products to local shelters or charities. Since December 2016, they've taken their campaign to parliament and have partnered with BodyForm to donate 200,000 packs by 2020, and across the country, people are holding events and fundraisers for the cause.
Endometriosis is a disease affecting 1 in 10 women - it doesn't discriminate, it affects homeless women too. If we're serious about fighting this disease, we need to reach into every corner of society to help and support those who may otherwise not be heard. If you're interested in donating or supporting The Homeless Period, you can get in touch via their website.
Images by Talie Strange