by Iida Pirttiniemi
Homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression in 1930s. Every night almost 64,000 people sleep in the New York City municipal shelter system. Nearly 1 in every 121 New Yorkers is homeless.
Charlee Newman, the founder of the non-profit organization Rise of Broken Women, used to be one of them. As a domestic violence survivor, she became homeless in 2008. It was a Friday afternoon and she had nowhere to go, so she spent the night sleeping in the A train before being able to get a spot at a Drop-in Center. The whole experience was shocking and devastating.
- It felt like being on a rollercoaster blindfolded, and I just kept telling myself to stay in control and not give up, Newman says.
Newman quickly realized that being homeless is an abuse in itself. During the two years that she spent at the Drop-in Center; she came to realize that she wanted to start an organization to help women who are facing similar difficulties she faced. That is how the story of Rise of Broken Women first began.
Homeless Periods: A Problem of Poverty, Dignity, and Feminine Hygiene
Menstruation creates a very specific problem to people without homes. Shelters don’t provide menstrual hygiene products and because they are not covered by SNAP, women might have to sell their food stamps or even their bodies to get the necessary items they need to make it through their period. Homeless women on the streets of NYC end up using things out of the garbage: newspaper, socks and t-shirts – anything they can find on the streets – to cope with their menstruation.
- Just imagine if you will, how would you feel if you had to use dirty rags, newspapers or whatever you could get your hands on, to use during your menstrual period? This does not only affect the women physically it is affecting them mentally, socially, emotionally and environmentally, Newman says.
- I remember once in a shelter there was a woman who was asking the guard for menstrual hygiene products. The guard told her to go to the toilet to get some toilet paper and use that, and the woman was devastated. There are homeless women whose daughters must miss school every time they have their periods because the family can’t afford pads or tampons, she continues.
Rise of Broken Women provides women in shelters with menstrual hygiene products, pantyliners, bras, underwear and other necessary items related to personal hygiene. They also help women who don’t get their periods with feminine hygiene products. These women will receive pantyliners, feminine wipes, etc.
- My goal is to give women in shelters and on the streets one less thing to worry about. If I can make a woman have one less worry, I have achieved something, Newman says.
Health and wellness as main goals
Newman started her organization in March 2019, and already got her 501(c)(3) in May 17, 2019. Things have moved quickly – thanks to Newman’s perseverance and drive.
- This was a dream that manifested in my heart, she says.
- The dream became a vision and that became Rise of Broken Women. It did not come out of passion, but out of necessity. I want to make sure that these women get what they need. This is my purpose, she continues.
Rise of Broken Women works both with shelters and on the streets. Newman’s goal is to help women where they’re at. Due to her personal experiences, she understands what women in shelters and women on the streets NYC need.
- Being homeless, you become invisible to certain areas of society. It’s like that. No one sees or hears you because they don’t want the involvement, Newman says.
Newman wants to uplift homeless women and the organization focuses on health and wellness as well as building self-esteem through communication, healing, forgiving themselves and financial healing.
All support is warmly welcomed
Donations and volunteers are essential to keep the work of Rise of Broken Women going. All donations are welcomed because every donation counts.
- Donating through us is effective because we can buy menstrual hygiene products in bulk, which makes them cheaper in comparison to smaller packages, Newman says.
Rise of Broken Women also organizes events to fundraise and to raise awareness on the issue of homeless periods. It is also possible for a community or a workplace to organize a donation box for menstrual hygiene products.
- Women need to start thinking about other women. The time to help is now, she says.
Support Rise of Broken Women!
Fundraiser dinner at Alston & Bird September 29th, 2019
Women’s Lives Matter PERIOD Walk-a-thon, April 25th, 2020
Spaghetti Fundraiser Dinner August 29th, 2020
Halloween Costume Party Fundraiser October 31st, 2020
Follow Rise of Broken Women’s website for further event updates and news!
Questions and inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rise of Broken Women is a partner organization of the Kota Alliance.