Building The Bridge To Housing From Homelessness

Furniture and other household necessities on the driveway in a yard sale.
Yard Sale photo by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Many furnishing a home have neither time nor transport to visit yard sales.

Interviews with people who are homeless leave no doubt that they would prefer to live in housing. The experience of finding and moving to housing highlights the challenges involved when making the idea a reality. One of the challenges is the items to furnish and equip a home.

How does one go about obtaining a bed, chair, table, bedding and kitchen utensils? How do they get to the new address? Where does the money come from for the soap, toilet paper, and so forth to keep using them on an ongoing basis?

Furniture banks have been one part of the answer to this challenge. For every person who is trying to piece together the necessary furnishing of life, there is a good chance that someone else has furniture and other household goods they don’t want any longer.

Furniture banks accept usable and unneeded furniture and distribute it to people who are setting up households. And as this story from Collingwood, Ontario relates, running an operation like this can be incredibly rewarding. See in ‘The need is so huge’: Transitioning from homelessness? Displaced by fire? Collingwood furniture bank here to help

Running a furniture bank is not without its challenges either. Some “donors” see them as a place to unload household items that don’t work or are broken. These are not useful, but have to be dealt with, otherwise they will choke the whole process. Over time, furniture banks have built policies and operations to keep them on their central mission. Here is an example from the Furniture Bank in Toronto: Furniture Bank

COVID-19 has added yet another element to the “donation” challenge. During the lockdown in England, unwanted household items were being “left” at illegal sites. If the goods weren’t removed, more stuff would be “left.” Local council housing estates proved to be popular locations for illegal dumpers. The residents were understandably upset to have trash accumulating beside their homes. A local community agency stepped in. It put tape round the sites, cleared away the items and tracked down the illegal dumpers.

The agency’s mission is to support the residents, who include newcomers to the estate, perhaps transitioning from homelessness, as well as long term residents. While dump clearing wasn’t part of the agency’s programs before COVID-19, it’s led to other community building activities. Read more about this initiative in TeessideLive: Mattresses, broken fridges and household filth: An in-depth look at Teesside’s fly-tipping problem