Just because people have a roof over their heads doesn't mean they have a home.
"Furniture is silent in its power. We understand the role of food, clothing and shelter in our lives, but we often take furniture for granted, until we don't have access to it. For our clients transitioning out of homelessness or displacement, furniture has a profound impact on their ability to live dignified and productive lives," says the website of Toronto-based Furniture Bank.
For anyone who is downsizing or moving and has furniture they no longer need, donating to Furniture Bank is a win for all involved. Donations help women and children escaping abusive situations, people transitioning from homelessness, newcomers and refugees. For furniture donors, it's a way to give furniture and household items to someone who will truly appreciate it and reduce the amount of unwanted items that go to the landfill. You even get a tax receipt for the fair market value of the furniture donated.
There are furniture banks across Canada. The Greater Toronto Area location is one of the busiest, says community engagement manager Noah Kravitz.
In the GTA, donated furniture is picked up and taken to Furniture Bank's 26,000-square-foot Etobicoke location, where it is sorted then displayed as it would be in a regular furniture store, Kravitz says.
Furniture Bank accepts only gently used furniture (no rips or stains) and household items (in good/working condition). Among items in demand are beds, dressers, sofas, kitchen tables, dining sets and armchairs. Buffets and hutches, kitchen items, housewares, end tables and electronics are also among the donations accepted.
"We are quite picky in terms of what we collect. They must be gently used," Kravitz says. When people call to arrange a pick up, there is a screening process and when movers arrive, they do a visual inspection to ensure the recipients will receive only "gently loved" items, he says. "Even grandma's 50-yaer-old sofa works."
The Furniture Bank is not open to the public. Clients are referred by one of the 94 partner agencies that help to screen potential recipients. Then an appointment is set up and the clients come in and enjoy a shopping experience, he says.
They select the furniture they need for their home with the help of a volunteer, says Kravitz. "We provide them the dignity of choosing their own furniture. It's a dignified process. Dignity is one of the core operating values."
The need varies from referral to referral, he says. "Whatever the needs are, they are addressed, from a single in a bachelor apartment, to families of four, six or eight, to Syrian refugees, where six to 10 people live under one roof."
Furniture and other items selected by clients are provided to them at no cost.
Donations can be dropped off, or picked up. In the GTA, full-service furniture removal starts at $100. Two uniformed movers and a truck will cart away unwanted furnishings and housewares and ensure items go to families in need.
The fee is charged to help fund the cost of distributing the free furniture, to rent the warehouse space and to run a fleet of trucks and staff a professional moving team. It's a kind, and a green solution to paying for a truck to haul everything to the landfill.
People who are moving, Furniture Bank has partnered with a moving company that can help with the move and then transfer any unwanted furniture to Furniture Bank. It's also an ideal solution for people dealing with estate sales.
If homeowners prefer, they can drop items off at the Etobicoke location.
Since 1998 Furniture Bank has helped more than 70,000 individuals and families enjoy the dignity that comes with a furnished home. In 2015, five million pounds of furniture was collected and was redistributed to 10,000 people, Kravitz says.
Donors often appreciate that their furniture doesn't sit around for months, he says. "Often within 48 hours, the furniture is on its way to a new home."
Furniture Bank's goal is to ensure no family goes to sleep on the floor in the GTA.