5 Surprising Reasons The Homeless Need Adult Diapers

Adult diapers are usually not the first thing you think about when donating to the homeless. However, conflicts around when and where “to go” are part of our clients’ daily struggles.

Adult diapers provide our clients needed sanitation, safety, and dignity when they need it the most.

Here are 5 reasons why adult diapers are important:

No Bathroom Access

If you’re sleeping outside chances are you won’t be able to access a bathroom when stores or other public venues close. Adult diapers can save the day and allow the homeless to get through a night without having an embarrassing accident or soiling the only clothes they may own.  

Also, even during the day many places won’t let our homeless clients use the bathroom – so what else can they use?

Menstrual Cycles

According to 2017 DC Women’s Needs Assessment Report, on a given night, at least 882 unaccompanied women are experiencing homelessness in the District of Columbia.

For many homeless women, access to maxipads and tampons are an ongoing obstacle. Adult diapers can come in handy when homeless women don’t have access to these products or can’t find a bathroom to change.

Adult diapers also prevent the staining of their clothes, which may be the only ones they have.


Men can use the bathroom almost anywhere somewhat discreetly – while women must suffer more exposure if they need to use the bathroom in a non-private, unspecified space.

This kind of exposure and lack of privacy makes women unsafe and vulnerable when living on the street. Having adult diapers removes this risk and is a small measure of security for homeless women.

Avoid Arrest

The homeless can get in trouble for indecent exposure when they have no other choice but to use the bathroom in public. It’s a catch 22 – they’re not allowed in to use the bathroom in private establishments, but it’s illegal to use the bathroom in a park or an alley. This is one example of what it means to “criminalize homelessness:” making the desperate choices our homeless clients make when they have no other options illegal.

When our clients have adult diapers, it gives them one more way to avoid attention from the authorities.


Many homeless people suffer from chronic and/or acute illnesses that may cause incontinence issues. Paired with mental health challenges these illnesses can be exacerbated or the homeless may not be aware they’re in public when using the bathroom.  

Having adult diapers can be a lifesaver when someone is incontinent and can’t find a bathroom quickly.

What You Can Do

In the end, our clients want stability and respect. As Alice Horton, Thrive DC’s executive director, explains: “the biggest issue is the need to help vulnerable people maintain their dignity.”

To that end, there are two big ways that you can help our clients:

  1. Donate Adult Diapers – diapers can be an expensive resource for Thrive DC to keep, and by donating or buying some you make a direct, tangible impact on our clients. You can even purchase them directly from our Amazon Wishlist.
  2. Advocate For More Public Restrooms – DC Council is considering a bill to build more public restrooms, and our representatives need to know this is something our community wants! Send an email to your Council member and let them know that you think bathrooms are a public right.


By: Stephanie Lopez