We all know periods can suck. You get it when you’re wearing white jeans. Or camping. Or on a first date. But having your period while homeless is a level of suck most of us don’t really think about or comprehend. We take for granted the cache of tampons at the bottom of our purses or the free ones at work or restaurants without realizing what a privilege it is. After reading articles about the need for menstrual products in the homeless community and beyond Liz Andrade, Jessica Olson, and Hannah Stover started All Cycles, a nonprofit that collects and distributes menstrual products for those in need. They seek to provide these products not just for women but to all who need stuff like pads, tampons, and underpants. This is one rad organization run by rad women. Don’t sleep on All Cycles! Donate, follow them on Facebook and attend their upcoming events. It will make you better! It will give you superpowers! It will make you not an asshole! Good job!
How long has All Cycles been around?
Liz: Just a few months! We launched the project on August 24th, 2015 and began our first donation drive September 1st.
Can you tell me about how All Cycles got started?
Liz: I had read a Huffington Post article about the difficulties of dealing with your menstrual cycle while homeless last year and talked with some friends about doing a donation drive. I was friends with the manager at Babeland and they even offered to be a drop-off spot… but we never went through with it. Then, this summer, a similar story was published in Real Change and so I reached out on Facebook to find people who wanted to help me do this — Jes and Hannah jumped on board immediately.
Jes: I also read the Real Change article Liz mentioned and I had a staggering realization: having unlimited access to a bathroom and menstrual products each month was a privilege. I’d spent my entire menstruating life never thinking about it and then suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about it… A few weeks later Liz posted on Facebook about wanting to explore starting an outreach project to fill this need and I basically pleaded with her to let me know how I could help. Shortly thereafter the three of us were sitting in Cal Anderson Park trying to figure out what to call ourselves, Rat City Rags was a close second to All Cycles.
Hannah: I was getting in too many online fights and wanted to direct my energy towards something positive and uplifting. Not that limited access to basic hygiene is uplifting. Once I read the articles that Jes and Liz refer to I was as mortified as anyone else that I had not even thought about the fact that menstrual supplies are not readily available to those who needed them was a huge and embarrassing issue (embarrassing for us as humans in society). Also, Liz and Jes seemed cool.
Liz: We found a few other groups throughout the US who were doing similar donation drives and street outreach, but one thing we noticed is that all of them were very gendered. They all specified that the donations were for women and used language like “feminine products” or “feminine hygiene.” We know that not everyone who has a menstrual cycle is either a woman or girl, and it was important to us to not exclude trans men, genderqueer folks, nonbinary or agender people. If we were going to do the work to advocate for folks who regularly go unheard, we wanted to do it right and not exclude those that are a marginalized group within a marginalized group. This is where the name “All Cycles” came out of.
Liz: We’re all about supplying folks that many people don’t want to acknowledge with products that no one wants to talk about. Our tagline sorta sums it up, “menstrual products for folks in need.”
Hannah: Another part of the project is to help de-stigmatize periods. It’s a natural part of people’s lives. For some of us, it is an inconvenience… you may have a couple extra trips to the bathroom, do an extra load of laundry or make a late night drug store run. But, for some Seattle folks, it can be a much larger struggle.
Jes: One of the reasons we have pushed for product donations more than doing monetary fundraising has been because we want the Seattle community to join in the conversation… by going to the store and purchasing the items, you’re participating in breaking down stigmas and directly advocating for this cause.
What do you think about “luxury taxes” on feminine hygiene items?
Liz: Menstrual products are expensive, and for those who are struggling financially, every penny counts. These are essential items, that you can’t go without, not a luxury.
Jes: We’ve estimated that the money that went toward the luxury tax for the items donated in our first drive could have supplied us with more than 30% more product!
What about this type of work appealed to you the most?
Jes: I exist in a world where I’m allowed to speak up for myself and ask for my needs to be met without *too much* concern for my personal safety but a lot of folks out there are not afforded a voice of their own or they’re simply ignored, I try to lend my voice to them. That said, starting All Cycles that day in the park gave us the opportunity to take action how we wanted and for whom we wanted to act (everyone) without having to compromise any of our individual beliefs has been a dream come true.
Hannah: Using my privilege and network to highlight a very real need that is not talked about, or really even thought about by most folks, and making it impossible for folks to ignore. Once you have the realization that as bad and annoying as your cycle can be it is so much worse for so many people, it creeps into your daily consciousness. So, creating awareness.
Where do your donations end up going?
Liz: The haul from our first drive went to Youthcare. They offer street outreach, a drop-in center and shelter, transitional housing and job training to homeless LGBTQIA+ youth in Seattle.
Jes: We’ve been lucky enough to receive additional product after our first donation cycle ended and have been able to pass that on to other charity drives during this Holiday season.
Liz: In addition to the large drop donation we make at the end of every drive, we also make supply packs. These are paper lunch bags that hold one cycles worth of products, along with a package of wet wipes. These packs are distributed directly to people on the streets of Seattle. We know that not everyone feels comfortable within the shelter system, so this added aspect of street outreach is an important part in getting these items to the people who need them the most.
What items are you always in need of?
Liz: During the last drive, we didn’t get that many underwear donations, so we’d like to get more of that this time around. Cotton is best, but beyond that we’re looking for everything ranging from small teen sizes to xxxL adult sizes. Bikinis, boyshorts, “women’s style” and “men’s style.” We are very focused on making sure that all of Seattle’s homeless who have a menstrual cycle are thought about with this project, not just the women and girls… so men’s style briefs or boxer briefs are needed just as much as women’s style panties.
Jes: As for the menstrual products, tampons and pads are what we need the most of. We love to get longwear style items, no pantyliners, please. We currently don’t accept items like Diva Cups and reusable pads, simply because those items can cause additional struggles for those without regular access to a bathroom or laundry facilities.
Hannah: We also prefer to receive unscented menstrual products, the perfumes used in some tampons and pads can irritate the skin and even cause infections.
How does one donate?
Jes: Our next donation cycle is January 1st through February 20th. During the drive a number of Seattle businesses like Babeland, Damask Tattoo, Vain Salons and Deep Roots Tattoo will be designated Drop Off Locations. During their normal business hours, you can stop in with your donation of unopened packages of tampons, pads, wet wipes, or various sizes and styles of underwear.
Hannah: If you’re unable to make it to one of these locations, we also have an Online Wishlist. You can make a purchase from our list at any time during the year, even when we are not hosting a drive and it will be delivered straight to us, you don’t even have to leave your home!
When is your next event?
Liz: We have amazing supporters, and one of them has planned an event to benefit us on Sunday, December 13th. You can bring in donations of menstrual products for All Cycles or warm weather clothing that will be going to Youthcare — any donation brought in that night will get you $1 beers and there will be a prize raffle and DJ’s and a lot of generous Seattle folks having a good time!
What does the future hold for All Cycles?
Hannah: We’re planning a Valentine’s Party for February 13th. Save the date and follow us on Facebook so that you don’t miss out on all the details.
Liz: We’ll be doing 3 donation drives in 2016 and we’re just looking forward to doing our small part in helping to make life a little bit more comfortable for Seattle folks in need.
How can others get involved?
Jes: Like us on Facebook and spread the word about the project to your friends and family. The bigger our network of supporters, the more folks in Seattle we will be able to help. We appreciate the people who give their support by being a cheerleader for us just as much as we do donations of products.
Liz: We are still in need of 2 more drop-off locations for our upcoming drive! We are looking for non-food or bar, locally owned businesses with regular storefront hours who are interested in being a drop-off location for our drive from January 1st – February 20th. We need one spot in the north end of Seattle (Greenwood, Northgate or Lake City) and one in the Southend (Georgetown, Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley.) If your business wants to be a part of our support team, email us!
Sunday, December 13th, Speckled & Drake, 9 PM
$1 Beers with donation, Music by Some Girls, Djs Sloppy Jo & Dyl Widdit
Raffle and Prizes