"In Atlanta, it’s easy to forget that the person standing on the street corner asking for a little help has a story and a name. It’s easy to ignore their backstory and treat the symptom of homelessness with the bare minimum of food, clothing, water and a place to sleep. Recently, Founder and President of The Peach Coven Sarah Belle Miles unearthed another basic right of humanity that homeless women are frequently denied: menstrual supplies. This universal priority is such a no-brainer, and yet we often forget that homeless women are just that: women, with the same biological functions and menstrual care needs as everyone else.
For almost a year, The Peach Coven has raised awareness for this cause in Atlanta with donation bins, pad-and-tampon drives, DIY period kits and fundraising events to ensure that every homeless woman is able to retain her health and dignity every month. Inspired by this undertaking, we caught up with Sarah Belle Miles about how she started this charity and why art, activism and college communities are the most drawn to The Peach Coven mission.
Emme Raus: What inspired your mission to donate menstrual supplies to women in homeless shelters?
Sarah Belle Miles: In March of 2016, I was on my phone one day feeling the itch of “I’m not doing anything with my time to better my community and my world, what is wrong with me?” Then I read an article about this organization donating menstrual supplies to homeless in L.A. and because I grew up in Los Angeles, it really resonated with me because I know a lot about the homeless population there. So I decided to get involved and did some research to see what Atlanta organizations, charities or shelters were doing drives. A couple would do it quarterly, but no one specifically distributed menstrual supplies every month of the year and so that became our mission.
ER: What do you and other Peach Coven members do to promote the cause?
SBM: Basically to get the word out I just use our social media pages. We also have flyers that I’ll pass out at events or put up somewhere. A lot of people are really open to contacting us though and they get involved by doing a drive and letting all their friends and colleagues know too. That’s sort of how we’ve done it and it’s been extremely organic. I would say we’re definitely a textbook grassroots group when it comes to organizing. Beyond that would not be us I guess.
ER: How much success have you had with The Peach Coven since its inception almost a year ago?
SBM: I think since we’ve started we’ve collected up to 60,000-80,000 products, and when I say products I don’t just mean the box itself but every item inside. So if it’s 32 pads, we do count 32 pads. As far as monetary donations I’d say maybe 2 to 3 grand tops. We don’t really focus on monetary donations as much, but when we do it’s great because it allows us to buy things that are harder to donate like brand new bras in a variety of sizes, brand new underwear or a ton of deodorants and shampoo. We had a great holiday season as far as donations went and by far the highest demand is pads. People also want to donate reusable stuff and that’s fantastic because I’m really pro reusable menstrual products. But we have to donate those to specific places because we could give cups to someone who has no idea how to use one. We will donate that stuff to live-in housing. I wish we could pass them out no problem, but it’s just not a norm of our culture yet and I think we can help change that.
ER: Are there any occult or witchy themes in The Peach Coven? Your name and logo hints that there might be.
SBM: A coven is a collection of women helping women. We don’t have to be all women but that definition is what we’re rooted in. We don’t identify as Wiccan and all of us have our own personal beliefs and practices. It’s pretty standard for a board meeting to consist of us talking business as well as burning candles and sage and having crystals around. The term “coven” also refers to how working in menstrual care is still taboo. We are giving pads and tampons to people and we aren’t traditional. So we’ve embraced that and that angle has opened doors to other groups of untraditional people who are highly intelligent, full of love and ready to help.
ER: How can collegiate women in Atlanta and Athens, Ga. support The Peach Coven?
SBM: The best way to spread the word is by sharing what we do, talking about what we do and trying to allow our work to become a more regular part of people’s live because that’s how we make it happen. It’s always on our radar to support the homeless community. Whenever I’m out driving, I’ll have water in my car and snacks. Keep in mind where you work and pay attention to the people you’re seeing around. We also encourage DIY drives, donating directly to us or coming to our events. For anyone who doesn’t live in Atlanta or Athens, it’s really easy to donate to your local shelter too. One thing I really hold dear is removing the stigma of homelessness because the second you start talking to them you realize just how special these people are. They are fantastic human beings who were short-changed, and it really puts it into perspective that this can happen to anyone."
-Interview conducted and article written by Emme Raus