Restoring Dignity, Building Hope: Hygiene Products for Homeless Women
By Pam McKown
What does it mean to be a woman? For some it means you calmly usher children to school, engage in a productive day at work, and then settle in safely at home with family to rest peacefully before doing it again.
Yes, this is the reality for some women, but for many women life looks different. For some it means you look as though you have it all together, but inside there is a battle being waged that includes feelings of guilt, insecurity, fear and vulnerability, and regret for mistakes made. For some women life looks like illness, death, loneliness, depression, or anxiety. For some women, it feels like you have sacrificed everything and you have nothing. You find yourself homeless and striving to find a safe place to sleep while wondering “How did this happen?” You could be secretly planning to leave an abusive partner, questioning how you will make it, or what freedom will look like. You may be trying to convince yourself, “It isn’t so bad here…” even though you know it is. For some of us the story of our lives may include any and all of these things.
Take Heart Ministries (THM), a new non-profit here in Waco, is working to connect women of all walks of life through the uniqueness that makes us women. Our mission is to build dignity, improve health, and restore hope to women who are homeless or in transition by providing them with female hygiene products.
See…women may all look different, feel different, be different and have different stories, but the one thing we share is that fact that we all have dealt with menstruation. Take Heart Ministries hopes to address the needs of homeless women by providing a month’s supply of tampons, pads, cleansing wipes, a box of granola bars and bottled water in a purple backpack called a “Love Tote.” What possibly could some tampons or pads mean to a woman who has nothing? It’s not going to feed her; it’s not going to clothe her; it’s not going to sustain her. But, at Take Heart Ministries we believe it will help her maintain her health and restore her dignity. It might help her stand tall with their face lifted and say, “I’m going to overcome.” And let’s be honest…we all long for that.
As women we all share the physical fact of menstruation. Take Heart Ministries seeks to build on that physical similarity to unite women of this community in a genuine authenticity that comes from being honest with ourselves and other women about our stories. Because if I’m honest, I have an understanding of the need to be loved deeply. I have my own feelings of loneliness, depression, feeling unknown and without purpose. I have made choices to give myself “love” or “happiness” through excessively drinking alcohol, sex, an addiction to pornography, battles with postpartum depression and infidelity in my marriage. These things gave me an immediate outlet to give my love to something or someone but continually left me empty and longing.
I have felt out of control in anger, addiction, sadness, guilt and isolation. Though the battle has been won and my head has been lifted, I still feel plagued at times with the lessons that I learned from this time. Even now, when things get tough, I face a strong urge – not return to the behaviors – but to revert back to the safe place of shame.
What does this mean? It means that in order to share a model for authentically loving others, we have to get real and honest. It means your story and my story are not perfect, but they also are not over! If we as women unite in brokenness and authenticity, love can heal what hurt divides. Mercy is waiting on the other side of our honesty. This is the very heart of Take Heart Ministries: to be honest with our own stories in order to share them. In doing so, we relate in the foundation of being a woman and become available to show God’s redeeming love to others by living out the very redemption He has given us.
Our hope is to engage you in this conversation, to challenge the women in this community to let down the walls that divide us, to join hands in serving and loving each other, and in recognizing the value that we all have simply by being uniquely ourselves. Take Heart Ministries would love to share our heart with you and groups that you are involved in. We currently have community partners that are distributing our Love Totes. We would love to see how we could provide that gift to your agency or group. It is a small gesture that relieves a woman of one burden she is carrying. Check us out at www.takeheartministry.org and feel free to contact me about how you can become involved in the life changing work taking place here.
Pam McKown is a Clinical Social Worker who provides individual therapy to those dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues at Journey Counseling Center. She is the Co-Founder of Take Heart Ministries. She is a long time native of Waco. She has a passion for social justice and journeying with people through life and finding true meaning and hope. She also is highly passionate about her family and the Baylor Bears.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.