Period Power: Homelessness and Periods In New Zealand

Photo courtesy of The Wayfarer Foundation, Photo by Josh Telles.

If you’ve been keeping up with our #PeriodPower blog series, you might have noticed that we’ve been shedding some light on why periods are powerful in society, not just in developing countries but right on our front door step too.

From girls missing out on school to period shaming through the media, we’ve still got a long way to go for menstruation equality! That’s why we’re all about the #PeriodPower this year.

So far we’ve talked about how people are affected by attitudes towards periods in different walks of life including the workplace, and what you can do to support the #PeriodPower movement. Today’s topic covers another taboo we often try to ignore – homelessness. How does being homeless affect their period? Let’s dive in.


According to the University of Otago, which analysed the latest census data from 2013, more than 40,000 people, or one in 100 New Zealanders, are now homeless. This includes those living rough, in emergency housing or living in substandard garages, and does not include those living in emergency accommodation such as night shelters.

If you do the maths, that’s a lot of people who menstruate sleeping rough tonight who don’t have access to safe, clean menstrual products, bathrooms and other basic needs.

WHY? Well that’s the question of the century.


The hardships homeless people go through is unimaginable, and whether they menstruate or not, being homeless is another taboo topic many of us never talk about. Every month for about a week, homeless menstruators are faced with the problem of spending the little money they have on a meal, or on a box of tampons or pads. Let’s not forget how expensive disposable menstrual products can be each month.

In New Zealand, the average menstruating person will spend $4500 over a lifetime on their period. That’s $16000 when we include pain relief, or having to buy new underwear when spillages inevitably sometimes happen.

Now imagine you don’t have enough money for basic food supplies. It’s no wonder that in New Zealand, even families who aren’t considered homeless, are relying more and more on food banks to provide basic period products.

There are so many different ways homeless women and trans men deal with their periods. From socks, plastic bags, and napkins, to rags, shirts and cotton balls, these homeless menstruators are at risk of toxic shock syndrome and other health related issues. Not only is it a hygiene problem, but a health problem.

On that note, let’s get this engraved in our brains: Menstrual products are NOT a luxury, they are a NECESSITY, and everyone should be able to have access to them.


Let’s be real, there’s still a lot of people who don’t like to talk about menstruation. Whether you’re that friend that rocks a #PussyPower hat, or you openly talk about periods, you probably know people that avoid the topic altogether. This also affects homelessness because so many people and donors aren’t aware of the vast needs of menstrual products because it’s not something they’ve been educated on. So not only is it a homeless issue, but it’s a societal issue! Read our #PeriodPower blog on how to talk and break the period taboo and educate your friends.


Don’t ignore what you see. It’s easy to walk by a homeless person and pretend they don’t exist, but everyone has a story. Maybe there’s a shop around the corner that sells menstrual products? Ask if they would like a box of tampons or pads! It’s a simple gesture that will alleviate their embarrassment and pain for that one week where you can’t control what your body does.

You can also donate period products to Go With the Flow, an organisation who collects donations of sanitary products to then hands them on to other organisations such as food banks and the Salvation Army, or also donate to Go With The Flow Hawke's Bay.

One of quickest yet most important things to do is keep the conversation going and raise awareness by sharing this post and use the hashtag #PeriodPower. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more period power talk!