HerSpace hygiene drive fights period poverty and homelessness


Ali Browne

LEND A HAND. In Minnesota, 7,000 individuals face homelessness, and over 22 million people in the United States face period poverty. HerSpace’s focus on outreach made these issues the central focus of their January drive. HerSpace members got together to assemble hygiene care packages during tutorial on Friday.

HerSpace is hosting a school-wide hygiene drive from Jan. 17-Jan. 20. The affinity group is requesting that participants bring unopened boxes of menstrual products as well as toothbrushes, razors, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. Collection boxes will be placed in both the Huss and Davern entrances, and all donations will be redistributed to local organizations and shelters.

The Minnesota Homeless Management Information System’s point-in-time study conducted on Jan. 26 of last year found that there were over 7,000 individuals facing homelessness in Minnesota, roughly 50% of whom were women, transgender, or gender non-conforming. In addition to a recent tampon shortage due to supply chain issues, homelessness further intensifies period poverty: the inability to afford or access necessary menstrual products, which impacts over 22 million people in the United States alone.

As the need for menstrual and hygiene products is not met due to accessibility and financial reasons, many homeless or low-income individuals experience harmful effects. Infrequent changing or being forced to use other materials to manage periods can put those who menstruate at risk of infections or toxic shock syndrome.

To combat this issue, HerSpace leaders Clara Ann Bagnoli and Audrey Leatham created a hygiene drive with the hope it can help individuals in the Twin Cities who experience period poverty and obstacles when seeking access to other hygiene products, particularly as homeless shelters reach fuller capacity. The event allows members of the SPA community to help those in need in an easy way.

“It’s January, so we are getting closer to the coldest months, which means that shelters, in general, will be increasing in their populations because it is harder for people to be on the streets, and so donations of any kind during this time are particularly important,” Bagnoli said.

We really aim to support both women within and outside of our school, and planning drives and other events as we hope to continue in the future will help us do this.

— Audrey Leatham

HerSpace plans on delivering donations to Keystone Community Services. The organization works with local individuals and families through outreach work and can redistribute donated products to those in need.

While HerSpace has predominantly focused on supporting female-identifying students within the walls of SPA, Leatham and Bagnoli met before the school year to plan ways to increase participation in the group and identify areas to expand their work across the Twin Cities and Minnesota overall.

“We were focusing on increasing engagement and getting people involved, especially the upcoming freshman class. We really aim to support both women within and outside of our school, and planning drives and other events as we hope to continue in the future will help us do this,” Leatham said.

HerSpace hopes that this event will allow others to reflect on their own privilege and help fight the severity of a lack of access to adequate hygiene products in the Twin Cities.

“One of the big things about being an affinity group for female-identifying students at SPA is the fact that most of the people here come from places of privilege. Even being in a minority group, the women at our school are given a lot of privilege and opportunities that women in our greater community don’t have, so finding a way to give back and use our privilege for outreach work is something we really care about,” Bagnoli said.

All items received will be donated over the weekend.