Dignity Pack Project
Three Years Since It Started, The Dignity Pack Project Continues to Provide Essential Resources to People Experiencing Homelessness in Atlanta.
The Dignity Pack Project (DPP) supplies people experiencing homelessness in Atlanta, Georgia with basic hygiene and period products and PPE. The project began in August 2020, in response to overwhelming needs triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three years since its inception, the need for these supplies remains. The project continues to distribute around twenty different hygiene and period products, while also working with community partners to change norms around product access and to standardize the distribution of these necessities to people experiencing homelessness in Atlanta.
The Dignity Pack Project was founded by then-RSPH students Alison Hoover, MPH and Ana Rodriguez, MPH, and current PhD candidate April Ballard, MPH. Over the last year Katie Leite, also an MPH alumna from Rollins, joined the DPP and now leads the project's distribution efforts.
“We talk about things resuming to normal but in so many ways, services, outreach and funding for people experiencing homelessness have not returned to normal. The need is just as real now as it was when we started in August 2020” says Ballard.
To remain responsive to emergencies and relevant to the community, DPP’s mission remains the same: to distribute hygiene and period products to people experiencing homelessness in a dignified manner. The project has provided approximately 1,700 ‘Dignity Packs’ and plans to sustain this operation and continue meeting the needs of those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta.
Leite adds, “This is where we want to be and what we want to be doing – it's now more about having the resources and the support to keep doing what we are doing."
Without changing their scope or population of interest, the DPP is using its learnings and expertise to help others in the community better their approach to providing essential resources to people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations.
“The Dignity Pack Project focuses on mitigating harms that come from experiencing homelessness, and empowering people with their own agency and autonomy to make the best choices for themselves. This sounds like it should be the norm but there is still much room for this approach to become de facto. We are focused on thinking about how the lessons we’ve learned these two years can be shared to broaden their impact,” says Hoover.
For example, the DPP is working with the Elizabeth Foundation, a group that is focused on harm reduction among those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta and outside the perimeter to implement dignified outreach methods and monitoring of product distribution. DPP is also working closely with Georgia STOMP, a state coalition committed to addressing menstrual equity and period poverty, to evaluate and address issues around menstrual equity in Georgia public schools.
In terms of DPP’s future, the project’s leaders hope to continue partnering with established organizations to encourage the institutionalization of hygiene and period products through policy.
“A huge pursuit of ours is to work with our partners on a larger scale to find ways to sustain and institutionalize this process in our community, to make these services and products available on demand.” says Hoover.
The team published a paper late last year alongside Emory Assistant Professor Bethany Caruso on the importance of providing choice and autonomy in distribution of products to people experiencing homelessness, the principles that DPP is founded on. Sharing this knowledge through publications, media, and partnerships is how the group hopes to inspire change in policies and programming.
In addition to the original Gates Foundation and Bayer grant that helped start this project, the movement has gained much support and donations from different groups in the community that have kept the project alive- groups like PERIOD INC, Georgia 55 and Emory Rollins Student Government Association.
“We are so lucky to have the support of our donors, as well as the support of students at Rollins who have gotten involved at every level. This effort is in so many ways driven by the commitment of individuals that get connected to it, and we are really grateful for it.” says Leite.
If interested in getting involved, please join the project’s listserv for opportunities for volunteering and follow the DPP on Instagram at @dignitypack or on Twitter at @dignitypack. You can also donate to the organization through the group's Amazon Wishlist.