The displacement of hundreds of thousands of Syrians in 2015 and 2016 proved to be one of the most calamitous humanitarian crises the global community has seen in recent memory. While many have thankfully found refuge in hospitable nations across the world, getting them situated has been nothing short of a logistical miracle.
Obviously, public funds have gone a long way in helping new residents transition into their new homes, but the money can only go so far – after all, not only does it have to pay for the roofs over their heads but also their medical care, food, and the kind of support and cultural services that will help to acclimate them. With all of these necessities, its perhaps easy to forget that simply providing four walls and a place to hang your hat does not a home make.
This is where furniture charities come in. Haven’t heard of a furniture charity before? That isn’t surprising – but chances are there’s at least one operating in your community that’s tasked with the providing gently used furniture to refugee families as well as those that have landed on tough times.
The Salvation Army, for instance, operates an expansive 3,000 sq. ft. facility in the city of Lethbridge, Alberta where people can come in and pick up anything from beds and night tables to small kitchen appliances. Best of all, the charity will even deliver the items to the recipient’s door at no cost, much like the wares themselves.
You might think with the recent influx of refugees, there would be a serious strain on the supply of furniture available to furnish the homes of thousands of new residents. The fact is, there’s actually an abundance of supply. That’s because since furniture charities began operating, people upgrading their home or office now have a place to donate used, but still very functional pieces, diverting a large amount of waste from ending up in landfills. Something to keep in mind the next time you’re shopping for a new bedroom set for your home, or unique office furniture for your place of business: someone less fortunate than you would be happy to have it.
Over abundance may be an issue in terms of where to keep it all, but that pales in comparison to the dignity that these types of charities afford to the people coming in for much needed items. Since so many furniture charities, like Helping With Furniture – a volunteer-based charity located in Ottawa, Ontario – are so well stocked, people have the opportunity to look for things that they actually like, that perhaps inspire them. And something as simple as that goes a long way to making their living spaces feel like their own.
Though they do great work, and they have a lot to give, a number of furniture charities are struggling. For one – they tend to lack space. Furniture takes up a lot of room, so when facilities are full, some furniture that would otherwise be accepted as a donation has to be turned away. Additionally, volunteers willing to process and deliver used furniture are dwindling in numbers, further jeopardizing the future of these types of charities.
Turning away donations may not be a big issue now, but as more and more refugee families resettle into various communities, these organizations could see a run on their stock at a pace that will make it difficult to replenish.
Aside from volunteering their time or furniture, there are a number of ways that concerned citizens within the community can help. The first and most obvious is to donate cash. Many charities have secured a donated space from which to operate – when its full, they have no choice but to turn away donations. By donating cash, these charities can rent temporary storage locations to house overstock which helps them to maintain a high quantity of goods, and it will also help keep perfectly good furniture from ending up at the city dump.
The second way people can help is to call ahead and inquire as to what they need in terms of donations. Don’t drop off your furniture after hours thinking that they’ll make good use of it. If their facility is full, chances are your donated item will end up being tossed. Instead, let them know that you have furniture that you’d like to donate and if they cant accommodate you now, have them call you when they can.
Furniture charities may not save lives, but they do help to improve them immeasurably. Being able to provide someone with a home can do more for a family in need than most of us will ever realize – and something that important should be preserved at any cost.