Happy Period is a non-profit based in Los Angeles that collects donations and gives out free hygienic products such as pads, tampons, and liners to those experiencing homelessness. Chelsea VonChaz began Happy Period two years ago when she decided to completely change her career path to make a difference. After seeing a woman walking down the street in blood stained clothing, she began visiting local homeless shelters and educating herself about what it’s like to menstruate while homeless. Since then, Happy Period has grown from a few charitable friends handing out period kits in Downtown Los Angeles, to a national organization with chapters in New York City, Atlanta, Miami, San Diego, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Happy Period thrives off of help from its supporters who donate money, products, and even start their own chapters around the country. Since shelters are not required to include feminine hygiene products into their operation budget, without this generosity, those who desperately need them are overlooked. Seeking to help anyone who is homeless, low-income, and living in poverty, including LGBTQ, nonbinary, teens, veterans, and disabled, Happy Period has been rightfully labeled a social justice organization.
“First thing is spreading awareness about the lack of access [to menstrual hygiene] and the lack of donations of these products,” she said. “Folks are more comfortable talking about cancer and terrorism than they are talking about periods. I think that is so backwards.”
She continued, “For thousands and thousands of years we’ve had this one thing that is the reason why we’re all freaking here, and we’re just uncomfortable talking about it. We don’t even want to bring it up.”
When asked about her experiences with specific women she has met along this journey, she remembered, “I actually talked to a few people who admit that they are addicts. They have been refused pads and tampons from shelters, because they’re not in a program, or because they’re not a resident of the shelter or whatever.” She also notes that while she thinks tampons should be cheaper, not taxed, and free in places like schools and prisons, her priority is helping those who have nothing. Changing laws comes after that.
Happy Period believes that the conversation begins when one person decides to help and be empathetic. Chelsea says, “The first thing I would say is that the change has to start with you. Whatever you’re moved to do, just do it. If you’re moved to go and buy an extra box of tampons or pads whenever you buy one for yourself, cool. Buy an extra box and donate.”
The biggest takeaway from Chelsea’s project and the issue of equality as a whole is that women’s health is not just a women’s issue. When we tell women that vital health products aren’t important enough to be free from sales tax, or just free in public restrooms for that matter, it sends a very clear message. Periods aren’t secret or taboo. They’re just natural, and menstrual equity should be treated as a human rights issue because it is one.
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