People think of sleeping bags or food as ways to help women who have little money or shelter, but tampons and sanitary pads are just as urgent a need, says Chantal Mattix.“People forgot that some homeless people are women and we need these things like everybody else,” says Mattix, 29, who relies on Sistering, a women’s 24-7 non-profit drop-in that is part of Toronto’s chronically overstretched emergency shelter system, for her menstrual products. Chantal Mattix, who relies on Sistering, a women’s 24-7 drop-in, says people have forgotten “that some homeless people are women” and need menstrual products. (David Rider / Toronto Star)“Everything Sistering gives us comes from donations and I know these products cost a lot of money.”The drop-in was among homeless service agencies supporting Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s call Friday for the city to give more funding to homeless service agencies so they can distribute menstrual products without skimping on food or other necessities for clients.She wants this year’s budget to include a $1,350 boost for each of 76 funded agencies — 65 shelters, nine 24-hour respite sites and two 24-hour women’s drop-ins — for a total of $102,600.“The current funding is not adequate and that’s why everyone here is scrambling,” said Wong-Tam, surrounded by homeless service advocates. “They represent thousands of participants and users, and they’re all saying they have to additional fundraising … and we’re looking for a permanent solution.”Greg Seraganian, a spokesperson for the shelter, support and housing department, said the city provides block funding to support agencies that does not separate out expenses such as toiletries including menstrual products.City staff just finished a telephone survey with a random sample of women’s shelters and 24-hour respite sites and they reported having a “sufficient supply of menstrual hygiene products for clients,” Seraganian wrote in an email.That’s news to providers including Michelle Cutts of Kennedy House Youth Services.The block funding isn’t enough and isn’t rising with inflation, forcing agencies to fundraise or find other ways to help women, she said. “We have to make choices — ‘OK, are we buying food today or tampons or deodorant?’”Leviana Coccia of The Period Purse said her non-profit that provides menstrual products to low-income women can, after a fundraising drive, make 2,000 packs of products that last one day.“So we have thousands of products and thousands of hours donated, and it’s still not enough.”Minister Alexa Gilmour of Windermere United Church says “period packs” are among the most popular items her church distributes to low-income Torontonians. Women shouldn’t be forced to choose between tampons and feeding their children, she said.The increase sought by Wong-Tam is not in the city’s proposed 2019 budget that goes to Mayor John Tory’s executive committee and finally city council next month.Councillor Gary Crawford, the budget chief, noted in an email that almost $120,000 was added to the budget to pay for menstrual hygiene dispensers in city-funded shelters, 24-hour respite centres and “strong neighbourhoods” community centres.“Our Toronto Shelter Standards and Toronto 24-Hour Respite Site Standards already require all service providers to provide menstrual hygiene products to their clients,” Crawford said.In response to Wong-Tam’s view that the funding is inadequate, Crawford noted that Wong-Tam attended a recent budget committee meeting and supplied it with motion that led the committee to task city staff with consulting homeless service providers on the cost, access and distribution of menstrual products, and the “feasibility of providing such products free of charge to low-income menstruators.” “The Budget Committee took action and it’s disappointing she is now trying to play politics with this very important issue,” Crawford said in the email.“It seems she had this press conference planned regardless of the Budget Committee decision.” The findings are to be reported to the city’s community development committee in May.David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmriderTOP STORIES, DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX.