Her smile is broad, swiftly lighting up her eyes and crinkling up the corners of her face, speckled with tiny star tattoos. She carries everything she owns with her through San Francisco, including her dog, Lucky. Dawn told us that Lucky is a rescue dog and that he's the one who rescued her. He's small and sweet and cuddly. At night, when she's on the street, he protects her from beneath their shared blanket, barking at passers-by and potential harassers with a force that belies his stature. She says he sounds like a Rottweiler when he’s fired up.
Dawn has been living on the streets for years. She’s originally from the East Coast, but she’s called California home for quite a while. She told us how much she loves Lava Mae because even when she has a bit of cash and pays for a night at a motel, the shared bathrooms are dirty and she feels unsafe. “Being clean makes me feel human again,” she told us.
When we asked her how she pays for pads when she has her period, she says she saves money for them. Menstrual products are hard to come by on the streets and through service providers. And Dawn let us in on a little secret: pantyliners are her lifesaver. When she doesn’t have the ability to clean her clothes—and especially her underwear—regularly, a pantyliner is the best way to ensure that she stays clean and comfortable.
Speaking with Dawn showed us how important it is to listen to the people we seek to serve. Gloria Steinem says that people in positions of power need to learn how to listen, and people who are not in positions of power need to learn to speak up. Hearing Dawn was one of the early rewards of our journey to provide healthy period products for all women.