Organization ‘helps a lot of refugees and new Canadians, which has become one of our fastest-growing populations right now,’ says official
Lived experience and the desire to help others are fuelling a Redwood Park Communities initiative that helps people in need to furnish their homes.
The Furniture Bank has been operating since 2019, but has been in its current space — located near Rose and St. Vincent streets at 92 Davidson St. — for about two years.
Managing director Anna Sedore told BarrieToday that before that, it was run out of wherever they could make it work.
“Storage units, garages, you name it. We got in here about two years ago and it had been uninhabited for about eight years, so it needed a lot of work,” Sedore said. “Redwood Park is the umbrella organization for the Furniture Bank and they did all the work you see here. By they, I mean (Redwood Park founders) Tim and Rhonda Kent and their kids.”
When you walk into the front doors of the Furniture Bank, you see reclaimed brick walls, wooden beams and structure along with soft lighting and nice, comfortable furniture.
“The furniture was from the Bank and the reason is we wanted to show people when they came in that they can have items from here that will make their home look as nice as they dream it,” Sedore said.
The Furniture Bank is mainly aimed at people who need home items, but can’t reasonably afford to furnish it. Most people qualify for funding that covers 100 per cent of the cost, which is based on what they can afford. For anyone who doesn’t qualify for funding, the Furniture Bank will work with them on what they can reasonably affordable.
“The vast majority of folks that come here are on some sort of social assistance, whether it be ODSP or Ontario Works,” Sedore said. “We also help a lot of refugees and new Canadians, which has become one of our fastest-growing populations right now. As well, those who were formerly homeless are some of our main clients. Single parents and those with disabilities are also very active here.”
Jade Cooper, 20, is a social student worker with the Furniture Bank, but told BarrieToday that at one time she required their services.
“I was moving into my first apartment after previously being homeless, and to get the furniture for the place I was really struggling because I had very low income,” Cooper said. “I got referred here and did a walk-through, which was a very nice process. When it came to picking my furniture, it was so easy. I just went online, put in my choices and gave the proper information to confirm.”
The Furniture Bank works with several different social service agencies in the region and once referred by an agency, Sedore says the process is fairly quick.
“You don’t have to jump through hoops here because we trust our community partners and if they are referring someone to us, we know that they know that person’s situation,” she said. “We don’t feel the need to re-traumatize people by having them bring up the situation they’re in.”
Cooper, who also had her mother living with her, said she had the couch and two beds delivered without any hassle.
Getting a place to live was one thing, but getting nice furniture boosted Cooper’s morale in a big way.
“Being homeless, obviously, is not a great experience,” she said. “Getting the furniture made my place look nice and made me feel better, but it really is more than that. You can see when you come in here it is inviting and you eventually get to see it’s like a family.
“The people here have your back and it makes the whole process so much easier.”
Cooper is now on the Furniture Bank team as a student social worker and says she loves being able to help like she was once helped herself.
“I’m now handling the referrals just like I got through before. I’m helping with group projects that help give back to the community,” she said. “When you are a client, you come in and you see the offices, the people, the furniture. But when you’re actually working here, there is so much more.
“Having lived experience goes a long way because you know what people are going through when they call or come through the door,” Cooper added.
Sedore echoed that sentiment about lived experience, as she has also been homeless.
“I was in that position as a youth and had to start with nothing,” she said. “I would say five out of eight of us walked in the shoes of some of our clients. I truly believe it allows us to be there better for the people who need the Furniture Bank.”
For information on how to access the Furniture Bank’s services, head to the link by clicking here.