Imagine how you would feel without access to some of life’s most basic items – a toothbrush, shampoo, tampons or even soap.
Then imagine trying to pluck up the courage to ask someone for help in getting these things.
Staff at the Wagga Women’s Health Centre know many people who have faced this very scenario, and for a long time have helped in the most practical way possible – by keeping their cupboards stocked with items they can give to women in need.
But right now, the centre’s stocks of personal care items are running low and staff are keen to get their cupboards filled again.
Donations of items like tampons, pads, disposable nappies, shampoo and toothbrushes are needed so the centre can keep helping women.
“One of the things we’ve been really surprised and delighted about is that so many women have provided goods that we can provide for other woman,” the centre’s Julie Mecham said.
“It started off very organically – I think with a couple of light globes – but what we’ve identified is there is a real tangible sadness to when women are dealing with poverty, when they are leaving with violence, when they are struggling with perhaps mental health issues, and for a whole range of reasons trying to navigate the system so that they’ve got the supports in place.
“Sometimes something as basic as pads and tampons can be a real luxury, particularly for women who are sleeping rough or who are unsafe where they’re at.
“If they are transient, if there is a reason to keep moving if it improves your safety, it can be a nightmare trying to keep the bear essentials going.
“We became aware of this at some point. I had asked someone if she had pads and tampons.
“She’d been using toilet paper or whatever she could find and sleeping rough. I took it personally.
“I know what it’s like when you’ve got support and access to all the stuff you need, still it’s like “I hope I don’t spot, this could be embarrassing’.”
Since then, Ms Mecham said, staff have made a point of always making sure there are pads and tampons at the Peter Street centre.
“We don’t particularly feel like we need to offer them – just take what you need. We have a stock of them, hoping people will just come and take what they need,” she said.
“There is no justification for them, or any of the other supports we offer.
It’s really about saying ‘we're women and we’ve been blessed with women wanting to support the service and we’re passing it on’.
“From there it’s grown, partly because of Share the Dignity.
The Share the Dignity organisation collects pads, tampons and personal hygiene products and gives them to women experiencing homelessness and poverty.
At the Wagga Women’s Health Centre, there is a range of handbags filled with donated items that women are able to take, free of charge, as well as stocks of individual items.
The contents of each bag vary, as do the bags themselves.
“What we do is say ‘we’ve got these and it’s OK not to have to explain why you need them,” Ms Mecham said.
Wagga Women’s Health Centre is a non-referral service and women are able to remain anonymous.
There is no limit on the amount of support and help someone can receive from the staff.