Recent studies by the Social Service Review show the number of homeless women and families spiking across the United States, which is why Support the Girls – Knoxville is taking action. This grassroots initiative is part of a network of chapters in multiple states to combat the issue many women and girls face in secret, the lack of feminine hygiene products and bra donations to shelters. It is a surprising issue, unless you’re one of the thousands of homeless women in America facing it.

Erica Zuckerman, is the director of Support the Girls – Knoxville. She says, “It is shocking that women are going without bras and feminine care products.” She started the chapter in February to be part of the solution to this problem. “Not all women can get these things, they’re expensive. There are women who just can’t afford it.” She adds, “I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I had to go without. It’s horrifying.”

So far, Zuckerman’s chapter has collected more than 350 bras and 9000 feminine hygiene products. “We are able to provide these very expensive items to homeless women that they wouldn’t have any other way,” she said. What Zuckerman has found is that while people donate plenty of clothes and canned foods, no one seems to donate bras or tampons. That’s why the organization is working to meet the high demand. Zuckerman says, “I know that this work is appreciated. The women who have received the donations sent thank you cards, saying they really needed these bras and feminine care products.”

Most recently, Zuckerman collected 149 bras and more than 8,500 feminine hygiene products from donations that have been coming in from people throughout the state. 8,000 of those feminine hygiene products were generously donated to Support the Girls –Knoxville by the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which is a producer of Kotex feminine hygiene products. She distributed these donations to women at Knox Area Rescue Ministry, an emergency shelter for homeless women and children. These donations will benefit homeless women in need of rescue services.

Dana Marlowe, founder of Support the Girls, started the national organization in Maryland last year. It all started when Marlowe lost a significant amount of weight, so her bras no longer fit and she had to buy new ones. At the boutique she went to, a saleswoman gave her the answer to what she could do with her old ones. She told Marlowe that homeless women are always desperate for bra donations, because they hardly ever get them. Shocked at the answer, Marlowe founded Support the Girls to do something about the issue. Now she is working to spread the message across the U.S. by starting chapters in every state and major city.

A Growing Need

According to a recent study done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 14% of the homeless population are people with their families and among these homeless families in shelters, women make up 78% of adults. In Knoxville, women make up 40% of the homeless population as of 2014, according to the Knoxville-Knox County Homeless Coalition. Support the Girls – Knoxville was established to give homeless women the dignity that they have been denied for too long. With a new bra and sufficient feminine hygiene products, a homeless woman can feel dignified once more. Zuckerman set out to make a difference in her community and with the donations she has received, she will be able to improve so many women’s lives.

To contact Zuckerman, please email or call (865) 660-3687.