Bras, Tampons And Dignity: A Grassroots Effort To Give Homeless Women More Support | KERA News

Bras, Tampons And Dignity: A Grassroots Effort To Give Homeless Women More Support

Feb 21, 2017

While people regularly give coats and outgrown shoes to those in need, homeless shelters—and the women who live there—are often without essentials like bras and feminine hygiene products.

A grassroots effort called Support The Girls is trying to change that.

A Place To Call Home

Thirty women and about 60 kids call Dallas’ Center of Hope shelter home. Annie Moore is one of them. She’d been staying with family, until her mom said there just wasn’t enough room anymore for her and her four little ones.

“Two days before I came here I was going around everywhere looking for a shelter,” says Moore. “It’s kind of hard not knowing where I’m going to go sleep tonight, where I’m going to feed my kids.”

She’s been living at Center of Hope since September. She helps clean the shelter, goes to bible study, learns job skills and enjoys a little peace with her kids—all four are under the age of 7.

Moore hopes to be in her own apartment and working toward nursing school by summer. And while she’s beyond grateful for the shelter—she craves independence.

“You wake up, you notice you’re here and it’s hard to take in, a lot of the times,” she says. “But you make it through.”

Going Without

Annie Moore has been living at Center of Hope with her four young children since September.
Credit Courtney Collins / KERA news

Moore admits, even before moving into the shelter, even when she was working at Walmart, she struggled to make ends meet. She couldn’t afford basic personal items; things like a new bra, even tampons.

“That would be one of the last things, bras and hygiene stuff. I would be trying to give my kids something to eat or something,” says Moore.

That’s the way a lot of moms think, sacrificing basic personal needs for the sake of their kids. The math gets even tougher when you’re homeless. That’s where Dana Marlowe comes in.

“We have donated over 85,000 bras and over 400,000 menstrual hygiene products,” she says.

While that seems like a lot, Marlowe says she’s only been at it for 18 months, and the whole thing started by accident. While out shopping for new bras, she asked the saleswoman what to do with her old ones.

“And she said ‘homeless women need bras.’ And I was like oh my God, I’ve been living under a rock,” Marlowe says. “How did I not know this?”

A Surprising Start

So Marlowe rounded up 16 bras of her own to donate—then put out a plea to friends on social media. From there, it just exploded, which is why Marlowe decided to move beyond bras, founding the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit “Support the Girls.”

“Many homeless women and girls are choosing between a hot meal, food a sandwich and maxi pads and tampons,” she says. “And that doesn’t sit right with me.”

And she’s doing something about it— sending bags of bras and cartons of hygiene products to women in need everywhere. Support The Girls has partnered with communities across the globe—from Chicago and Phoenix to Thailand and Australia.

Earlier this month, 700 maxi pads, 3,500 tampons and 600 bras were unloaded at Center of Hope in Dallas.

Not Just Practical

A case manager there, Tina Williams, says this donation isn’t just practical—it’s empowering.

“It just builds your self-esteem, you’re able to say ‘hey I got this.’ Because what woman wants to stand up and they’re not sure? What woman wants to walk around like that uncomfortable?” she wonders.

When women arrive at the shelter, the last thing they should have to worry about is tracking down a bra or a box of tampons, Williams says. They already have enough to worry about.

“Lost their job, nowhere to stay, they have three to four to five children,” she says. “Just broken women.”

Center of Hope is working to put them back together. A truckload of goodies from Support the Girls makes it that much easier.