San Francisco’s overall population is about 864,816 and San Francisco has more than 7,000 homeless people of which 35% are women in the ages between 20-50 years.
With only 1,100 shelter beds available in the city, there are around 4,500 unsheltered homeless living in tents, parks and on the street.
International research on homelessness shows that the majority of homeless people can get out of homelessness through a well-targeted effort that ensures both a housing solution coupled with individual close social support.
During my interactions with the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team and homeless people, I have witnessed how homelessness is caused by a variety of factors to include loss of stable housing, abuse and/or mental illness as well as lack of access to healthcare and mental health treatment.
Also, loneliness in a new home, lack of structure in everyday life and lack of a job are among the main risk factors for relapse into homelessness which causes a return back into their “old” homeless environment. Studies in Denmark has shown that a consistency in support by a support person is an important aid in the work of building a new start.
Money and building more affordable housing can not be the only answer when it comes to homelessness. Homelessness must also be accepted in society as a situation where a homeless person need a care plan which can both include support for physical or/and mental problems.
Life on the street is hard and merciless, and it takes strength to survive. Homeless people live a vulnerable life without basic protection and basic needs many of us take for granted like being able to cook a meal, go to the bathroom or have a shower. Additionally, they are also more exposed to violence, theft, assault in relation to others and are more likely to get diseases.
Small things do make a difference
I recognized that I may not be able to change the world or solve the homelessness problem, but I felt that I needed to take responsible for what is happening around me. The idea for Project Blossom formed a year ago, as I was reading different articles about being homeless as a woman and the difficulties getting sanitary products during the monthly female period.
Homeless women can sometimes get sanitary products from shelters. However, many women do not have the option to reside in a shelter, and their options are limited. This is often an overlooked issue, and yet something we as women face every month. I think most women know the feeling of periods being awful, inconvenient, dirty, uncomfortable, excruciating, exhausting and a very private matter or have been in a situation where we forgot all about that time a month and get caught off guard.
The Blossom Foundation hands out sanitary bags to San Francisco homeless women to aid them in managing their monthly female menstruation. The intention is to give women a feeling of being cared for and a feeling of identity and dignity. The Blossom Foundation recognizes these basic needs and want to increase homeless women self-worth.
At the end of September 2016, The Blossom Foundation handed out the first 300 bags filled with pads, tampons, hand sanitizer, wet wipes and water. This served as a trial and has all come together with support from the neighborhood, a few corporate donors and RETHINK water.
I am well aware that handing out sanitary products won’t solve all of the problems these women face, but I believe that even the small things do make a difference. I believe we can and should offer these women some respect and positive attention. The mission of the Blossom Foundation is to improve the lives of homeless women and help empower women with dignity and hope.
I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard…Malala Yousafzai