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Got Tampons? Now Columbus Rec Centers And Homeless Shelters Do

Esther Honig
Volunteers at the Buren Shelter assemble bags of free tampons for shelter residents.

All of Columbus' recreation centers and homeless shelters will soon see some major additions to women's restrooms: Free tampons. 

Not providing free tampons in public women's restrooms creates a basic inequality, argues City Councilwomen Elizabeth Brown, who spearheaded this initiative.

"I can't think of a public restroom that I go into where I don't expect toilet paper to be in the stall and soap to be in the dispensers," Brown says.

And yet, Brown says, there is a nearly ubiquitous expectation that women should bring their own tampons and pads. And that can be a problem.

Studies show that 86 percent of women have started their period unexpectedly while in public, without the products they need.

Brown says the small pilot program was shown to be successful and will now be expanding. And the total cost is minimal.

The homeless shelters will be provided with free tampons from tampon company Lola. And Brown says it will cost the city up to $5,000 annually to provide feminine products in all 29 of the city's recreation centers.

The first shipment of 15,000 tampons arrived at the Buren Shelter. Tampons will now be made available for free to residents.

Columbus resident Nancy Krammer worked with city leaders on this initiative. The founder of a national campaign, Free The Tampons, Krammer says her goal is to achieve full equality in public restrooms.

"Female and gender-neutral restrooms are not created equal,"  Krammer says. "They do not have everything in them that a human body needs to tend to their normal bodily functions."

Last year, Krammer worked with officials in New York City to bring free tampons to all of the city's public schools. In the pilot program, schools saw an increase in female attendance rates by 2.4 percent.

Krammer says she hopes the success of New York City program will allow her to bring free tampons to Columbus public schools.