Citizen’s Name: Donna Stolzenberg
Charity: Melbourne Period Project
Tagline: Support for the Homeless Period
Location: Port Melbourne Victoria
What is the Melbourne Period Project all about?
MPP supplies sanitary items to women and trans men experiencing homelessness. We do this by crowdfunding for products, putting them into kits we call ‘Period Packs’ and sending them out to the streets and to crisis accommodation services around Melbourne. Each kit provides everything needed for menstrual management for the average 5 day menstrual cycle, including disposable bags so the used products can be discarded safely.
How long have you been operating?
The Period Project is 2 years old however our original charity (Melbourne Homeless Collective) is three years old.
Where did the idea start?
We started with a blanket drive to give blankets and sleeping bags to people experiencing homelessness in Melbourne. One day a lady asked me for sanitary items and I didn’t have any. We had a lot of support already with our blanket initiative so we used that to help the launch MPP. This meant we started with a lot of momentum and the project grew quite fast.
How do TOWNHALL Citizens or visitors get involved?
We always need volunteers in some capacity or another. At the moment it’s drivers. We need people to help us get products from one place to another. We have an amazing collection of sanitary donations so we’re not actually in need of sanitary items at the moment. Costs of running a charity are the same as running a business, yet we have nothing to make money with to cover the costs. We rely heavily on financial donations for our charity to continue to work. Fundraisers are amazing. If people want to help out, holding their own fundraiser and donating the proceeds is a really great way to get the word out there about what we do. Usually someone from our organisation is able to attend the fundraiser to speak about what we do and help people to understand where their donation is going and how it’s directly going to help another person in need.
Do you have any success stories?
We have many! The organisations we are now supporting are able to hand over the sanitary items to women who simply had nothing before. We’re now in four states (VIC, NSW, QLD and NT), and we’ve been able to assist people in so many ways. One particular stand out interaction was with a lady who was sleeping on the streets who was due to see her children the next day for an access visit. She had recently been released from prison. Her period had started but she had nothing to use for it and her only option was to steal the products. She was just about to go and do that but she also knew if she did, and got caught, she wouldn’t be able to see her children again and would be back in prison. We came along at the right time and gave her a Period Pack. She didn’t have to steal the sanitary items and got to see her children the next day.
We’re now also in the beginnings of offering employment pathways for women who are escaping domestic abuse to be able to gain work experience and financial independence which means they’re less likely to return to an abusive relationship simply because they have no means to financially survive.
Do you have a project on TOWNHALL or an important event or mission coming up?
We have the launch of our new ‘Plate up Project’ coming up on July 15.
Are you raising funds for anything specific?
Our latest project, the Plate up Project (PuP), is an initiative we’re doing a fundraiser for that will assist women back into work and training. PuP will assist women to receive qualifications in the food and hospitality industry, work placement, references and support to navigate through the many barriers they face whilst experiencing homelessness. It’s a project that will facilitate financial independence and foster a sense of wellbeing and support. We’re fundraising for the pilot project to begin early August 2017. We’re also now supporting the children in crisis accommodation services by provision of fully stocked school bags to facilitate inclusion and continuance of education. The school bags mean they miss less time off school and are able to continue their education, leading to better future outcomes.
Any interesting fact you can share?
More than 10,000 women each year seek support from homelessness services in Victoria each year. Most are put on waitlists. There simply aren’t enough beds or support services available to assist everyone who needs it. Very few people are made homeless because of drug and alcohol use, in some states it’s less than 4%. Domestic violence and abuse are the main causes of homelessness among women and children.
What’s the overall vision for MPP?
We’d like to be obsolete! We’d like to never be needed. We’d like for the Government to supply all crisis accommodation services and all women in contact with services with free sanitary items. However, given we know that won’t happen any time soon, our vision is to firstly supply sanitary items to all women and trans men experiencing homelessness, but also to educate the public on the facts and realities of homelessness and to dispel some of the myths associated with it.
Anything else you’d like to add or that you think we should know?
Melbourne Period Project is just one project we operate. Our charity is actually called the Melbourne Homeless Collective and we run several other projects. Blanket Melbourne, The School Project, Brisbane Period Project, Sydney Period Project, and now the Plate up Project are other initiatives we run. We believe in an holistic approach to homelessness. Support where support is needed, hence we run different projects to support all areas of homelessness.