Furniture Bank exists to give a hand to those who need help transitioning from a negative situation such as homelessness and starting afresh. We believe in the transformative power of furniture in such situations – imagine studying, resting after work, preparing a meal, or raising a family without the use of furniture. Furniture provides the dignity, security and stability that allows us to go about our daily lives productively.
Implicit in our mission is a commitment to our clients – to provide them with furniture that is useable and useful. That’s why we only accept items of furniture that are gently used and within acceptable dimensions. It is also why we pay special attention to bed bugs – specifically, to ensure as much as we can that the furniture we provide our clients is free from a bed bug infestation.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on human blood. According to Wikipedia, bed bug bites can cause a number of health effects including discomfort, skin rashes, allergic symptoms and psychological effects.
Their name derives from the fact that they are commonly found in bedding and bedrooms because they feed on the blood of people who are sleeping. However, they may also live under wallpaper, behind picture frames, in electrical outlets, inside box springs, in mattress pads, and in night tables, and are easily moved from room to room on infested objects (Government of Canada).
How bed bugs affect our work
Bed bugs are often transported from place to place in objects in which they are hiding (Santé Montreal). This is particularly important for us because we transfer second hand furniture to families and individuals in need; therefore we need to take precautions to ensure that the furniture we receive from our donors is bed bug free.
We want to ensure that in transferring gently used furniture to our clients, we give them a fresh start in every sense of the word. Dealing with an infestation requires much time, money and effort (including the services of a pest control operator), so we endeavour to minimize as much as possible the chances our clients take an infestation of bed bugs home with them.
Our current approach to bed bugs prevention
We actively take steps to ensure that bed bugs do not enter our premises or the furniture we transfer to clients. Our primary prevention method is inspection: we ensure that every item of furniture is thoroughly inspected before coming into our possession. When in doubt we will opt to refuse a furniture donation.
Here’s what we do:
- It starts with the first conversation with a furniture donor – we ask for clean, gently used pieces of furniture, free of rips, tears, stains or other problems.
- When our drivers arrive at a pickup location, they inspect all donated items for any visual sign of infestation. An item will not be accepted if there is any evidence that suggests bed bugs are present.
- Furniture items are then inspected when they are transferred to our warehouse.
- When ready for the Client Showroom, we inspect the items again before they are moved to the showroom.
- Furthermore, every month our facilities undergo an in-depth inspection by a professional bed bug inspection service together with a bed bug sniffing dog.
In the event of any evidence of a bed bug concern, the item in question is immediately bagged and discarded in the garbage disposal area outside our building, and steps taken to cleanse compromised areas.
These efforts have proved successful to date. In the last 2 years, we have helped 10,383 people and transferred close to 64,961 items of furniture to clients, of which there have been just 2 cases of a reported bed bug issue – a 99.98% prevention rate!
Improving our efforts
On top of the prevention process described above, Furniture Bank is committed to improving our bed bug prevention program in line with what the organization can afford to provide consistently. In 2016, Furniture Bank’s leadership team committed to taking the following additional steps:
- Being one of Canada’s largest growing Social Enterprises that is hiring and training many new employees, to formalize training for all pickup drivers, helpers and warehouse staff on a regular basis, to be able to carry out in-depth inspections of furniture;
- Furniture Bank trucks will be steam cleaned regularly to further prevent the transfer of bed bugs via our trucks, and driver helpers will be trained to detect any evidence of infestation in our trucks;
- To continue to be proactive in following all measures in preventing the spread of bed bugs, and to investigate all best practices available to us within our means.
Furniture Bank bed bug prevention manifesto
As an organization dedicated to serving our clients, we have committed ourselves to the 10 principles outlined below:
- All clients deserve dignity and respect, and the best furniture our community can provide them. This requires us to refuse donations that may risk this.
- We believe Furniture Bank has a role to play in fighting the spread of bed bugs in our communities.
- We believe prevention is key to avoiding bed bug infestations in the furniture we transfer to clients.
- Furniture Bank will refuse any item that is donated to us that displays any sign of a bed bug infestation, however minor. In pursuance of this, Furniture Bank drivers, helpers and warehouse associates will carefully inspect any donations being offered to Furniture Bank to ensure that it passes our quality standards.
- In the event that an item on our premises is found to be affected by bed bugs, it will be immediately bagged and discarded, and steps taken to cleanse compromised areas.
- Furniture Bank will steam clean our furniture removal trucks regularly.
- Our premises will continue to be subject to monthly inspections by a professional pest control operator together with a bed bug sniffing dog.
- We are committed to ensuring all pickup drivers, helpers and warehouse staff are trained to carry out in-depth inspections of furniture.
- Where a client brings to our attention the existence of bed bugs in furniture received from Furniture Bank, we will make best efforts to remove and replace the offending item and provide guidance on extermination processes.
- We commit to continuing to improve our bed bug prevention program and pursue all options within our means to minimize the risk of bed bugs being transferred to our clients.