Providing Homeless Women Sanitary Products and Dignity
The homeless are frequently faced with difficult choices. Sadly for homeless women, one of these is often between buying food or tampons.
Thanks to an initiative by the Order of Malta, many of Sydney’s homeless women will no longer have to make this choice.
The Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta, increasingly known for their Coats for the Homeless project and Annual Lourdes Day Mass for the sick, have started distributing hygiene packs for the homeless to improve the health of those living on the streets.
The initiative is an extension of the Order of Malta NSW Community Care Van project which provides a mobile health service twice a week to the homeless of Sydney. Initially the van ‘staff’, made up of volunteer drivers and a nurse from St Vincent’s Hospital, intended to only distribute the Order’s ‘Coats for the Homeless’ in winter and sun protection and water in summer. However they quickly recognised other basic needs of those living on the streets were not being met.
“Poor health amongst the homeless is common and much of it is preventable’ explains Regional Hospitaller Dr Robert Costa. “We recognised that by providing the homeless with a simple hygiene pack containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and sanitary items for women, we could make a big impact on not only their daily life but longer term physical health”.
On average, 20 hygiene packs are distributed on each Van outing. The basic ‘men’s packs’ costs $5 each, but the women’s pack costs $10 each, as sanitary items are extremely expensive.
“For women on the street, who are usually in desperate and difficult circumstances, the provision of sanitary items not only promotes their health and wellbeing but self-worth and dignity,” comments Paula Hannan, Order of Malta Outreach Nurse, St Vincent’s Homeless Health Service. “It is something many of us take for granted and should not have to be a choice for anyone”.
The Order’s Coats for the Homeless also continue to be in high demand amongst those sleeping rough in the winter months, with over 20 Coats being distributed per outing. However, funding for the Coats remains a constant challenge – $100 supplies three Coats for the Homeless.
The Order of Malta is seeking donations to ensure they can continue to provide these items for distribution.
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