Furniture Bank makes houses into homes for families in need – The Star

The Star cover stories from former Furniture Bank clients. Read the article below or access The Star’s original post by clicking this link.

Furniture Bank makes houses into homes for families in need

By TAMAR HARRIS – The Star Staff Reporter
Mon., Feb. 19, 2018

Martin’s Story

A townhouse with only an overturned milk carton and three sleeping bags was transformed into a furnished home for Martin Train and his family.

Train and his family lived in the Beaches before personal and financial struggles led to them losing their home.

“I wound up homeless and I was living in a shelter,” Train told the Star.

“Eventually, I found a place after a few weeks … it was a townhouse in Leslieville. We’re sitting there, me and my two children Liam and Caitlyn, we’re sitting on the floor and all we had was a milk crate and three sleeping bags.

“And I was wondering, what am I going to do? I had no idea where to go or what to do.”

Train and his family were referred to the Furniture Bank, a charity that provides gently used furniture and household goods to people in need.

Founded in 1998, they are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Last year, they helped over 10,400 people and provided 1,500 tonnes of furniture.

The Furniture Bank, in Etobicoke, has helped more than 10,400 people in need furnish their homes in the past 20 years.

The Furniture Bank, in Etobicoke, has helped more than 10,400 people in need furnish their homes in the past 20 years.  (SUPPLIED PHOTO)

Three-and-a-half years ago, the Furniture Bank was a saving grace for the Train family. Within days, they went from sleeping on the floor to each child having their own bed — “a magical transformation,” Train said.

“It’s so demoralizing as a parent if you don’t have a bed for your child,” he explained. “And the fact that they provided that was just unbelievable for me. It was uplifting. I felt a huge sense of relief.”

Train’s entire townhome was furnished from the Furniture Bank, with tables and chairs and mattresses, among other items.

“The reason the (dining) table and chairs are my favourite piece is because that’s where we actually sit down — and we’ve been doing that for years — and we sit down and we actually have a meal, we talk, and when my fiancée comes down with her son we have a big dinner at the table,” Train said.

“Everybody’s laughing and talking.”

And since their townhouse was furnished, everything has been “so positive,” Train said.

He’s engaged to his fiancée Michelle, with the wedding set for August 2019.

A "before" picture of a room, prior to being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

A “before” picture of a room, prior to being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

An "after" picture of a room, after being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

An “after” picture of a room, after being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

His son Liam is in his second year at York University, studying history. His daughter Caitlyn is in Grade 11 and has set her sights on being a lawyer. Train’s eldest son Mitchell is married and living in Australia with his wife, and recently welcomed baby Miller to their family.

Tarun’s Story

Tarun Mehta, his wife Nidhi, and their 5-year-old daughter visited the Furniture Bank earlier this month, a trip he called “amazing.”

“It was nice,” Mehta said. “They were really helpful.”

After emigrating in September from India, the Mehta family pulled together some essentials for their home themselves — a dining room table and some other necessities.

Mehta said they picked up “more cosmetic things,” at the Furniture Bank including chairs, a desk, a couple of lamps and a coffee table.

“If I had to get all this stuff from the market, I would be spending somewhere around $3,000 at the market,” Mehta said. “This definitely saves a lot of money and a lot of pain.”

Mehta is working a couple part-time jobs while taking classes in mathematics. Once his family is more settled, he and his wife have agreed to give back to the community that helped them.

A "before" picture of a room, prior to being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

A “before” picture of a room, prior to being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

An "after" picture of a room, after being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

An “after” picture of a room, after being furnished by the Furniture Bank.

“There is a feeling that once you get this, you always try to give it back to the society,” he said. “That is what I was discussing with my wife yesterday.”

A word with Furniture Bank’s Executive Director

Nearly all of the Furniture Bank clients have secured housing, and “they’ve got keys to an empty apartment,” said Dan Kershaw, executive director of the Furniture Bank, “but they don’t have a home yet.

“They’re literally walking into four walls and a floor, as we say.”

Outfitting an empty apartment from scratch costs about $5,000, Kershaw said. That’s a high and often inaccessible price for the Furniture Bank’s clients, who include people transitioning out of homelessness, women and children escaping abuse, newcomers and refugees and others in need of a fresh start.

Clients must be referred to the Furniture Bank through a partner agency. An allotted amount of furniture is free, and clients must pay a fee, typically ranging from $100 to $200, for delivery.

“Every day, we allow 20 families to come in and be whatever they’re meant to be,” Kershaw said.

“If they’re meant to become a politician, become a politician. A lawyer? They can become a lawyer. But until they have those needed things, they’re trapped surviving inside a space that when they close the door at night, nobody knows that they’re existing that way.

“And that’s the really horrible thing, is that it’s a social issue that’s a very prideful thing. It’s really about dignity.”

You too can help fellow Canadian families by donating furniture to Furniture Bank or like minded organization in your area. Come drop them off to our Etobicoke location or use our professionnal furniture pickup service.

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