With Support from The Barra Foundation, the Philadelphia Furniture Bank Opens Its Doors - Generocity Philly

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Jan. 16, 2015 11:29 am

With Support from The Barra Foundation, the Philadelphia Furniture Bank Opens Its Doors

A lack of furniture keeps families in shelters longer--Furniture Bank seeks to speed this process up.

The 20,000-square-foot Philadelphia Furniture Bank, located in Kensington and operated by Pathways to Housing PA, is among the first projects to receive a grant from The Barra Foundation’s Catalyst Fund.

Intended to aid early-stage innovation, the Catalyst Fund also supported ideas from Habitat for Humanity PhiladelphiaPhillyGoes2College of The Mayor’s Office of Education, Bethesda Project, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights.

The Furniture Bank, complete with a savvy inventory system and a disinfecting hot box, is a clearinghouse for returned or donated furniture that can be “purchased” by partner human service agencies for clients in need.

In Philadelphia, it is the first designated space to distribute furniture, a critical need and the cause of long delays for families transitioning from shelters to independent housing.

“I came to find out that with families, people are spending three months longer than they need to in shelters because they don’t have furniture,” said Christine Simiriglia, the executive director of Pathways to Housing PA.

Agencies across the city have been struggling with the issue for years, according to Simiriglia, expending crucial resources and staff time to help individual families track down basic furnishings and household goods.

Before the Furniture Bank, Simiriglia said that Pathways to Housing PA was spending $80,000 a year to purchase furniture, a figure that hastened her decision to move forward with the project.

“We did a lot of research over the last year and we visited a bunch of furniture banks across the country,” she said.

The Barra Foundation has committed $150,000 over two years, enough to support startup costs, hire a staff person, and acquire a 16-foot box truck to collect donations. The annual budget for the Furniture Bank is $308,000.

Partners including Project H.O.M.E., Horizon House and Women Against Abuse pay an annual sliding-scale fee between $200 and $1,000 to participate.

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Eventually, Simiriglia said, “we’ll have a couple of days a week that we’ll do pickups,” and the organization plans to mobilize volunteers around the effort.

“This gives us very tangible opportunities for people to volunteer, to donate furniture, and to also feel like they contributed to making a difference,” she said.

Images via SarahBones.com

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