Don't underestimate the importance of furniture - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 5, 2019 11:31 am

Don’t underestimate the importance of furniture

The CEO of Pathways to Housing PA says having a mattress or table can help a family move out of shelter and transitional housing more quickly.

The Chair Affair will auction 10 chairs from the Furniture Bank that have been turned into works of art by 10 local artists.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Christine Simiriglia, president and CEO of Pathways to Housing PA.
As you’ve probably  heard, Philadelphia has a 26% poverty rate — one of the highest in the nation; in fact, we have the distinction of being the poorest big city in America.

Of that 26%, nearly half (12.2%) are living in deep poverty, with incomes below 50% of the federal poverty limit. That’s less than $13,000 per year for a family of four. Many of these people are children caught in the loop of generational poverty.

Some of those living in poverty will experience homelessness, and will need help to find housing.

But housing is more than just  four walls — without a bed to sleep in, a dresser for belongings, or a table where you can share a meal, an empty apartment provides almost no comfort. Families spend an average of three months longer in emergency shelters simply because they have no beds for their children or furniture for their new apartments.

That’s why Pathways to Housing PA founded the Philadelphia Furniture Bank in December 2014 to provide furniture, including new bedding, to the individuals and families most in need in our community. The Furniture Bank helps individuals and families move out of shelter and transitional housing more quickly, opening up a bottleneck in Philadelphia’s emergency housing system.

The Furniture Bank has re-purposed more than $2 million of furniture in four years and continues to serve as an innovative and unduplicated resource in Philadelphia for social service agencies and our shared mission of ending homelessness. Since opening our doors just over four years ago, PFB has furnished homes for 5,530 people by working with local member agencies, including Horizon House, Project HOME, People’s Emergency Center, the Salvation Army, and Women Against Abuse.

Families spend an average of three months longer in emergency shelters simply because they have no beds for their children or furniture for their new apartments.

Next month, the Philadelphia Furniture Bank will be settling into a new space in Kensington (at 3650 I Street, just around the corner from our current warehouse) that is larger and will allow us to serve more people, as we’re seeing increased need year after year. In 2018, the number of households furnished almost doubled from the previous year, growing to 811 households or 1,818 people total.

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Despite that growth, we know that we’re not doing enough. Our 46 member agencies serve clients in Philadelphia who are living without and cannot afford the most basic home furnishings, including those moving out of homelessness, victims of domestic violence, those suffering with mental illness or substance use disorder, young adults exiting foster care, refugee families, and victims of personal and natural catastrophes. We may have furnished 811 homes last year, but there are thousands of other families eating their meals on the stairs because they don’t have a table, or sleeping on the floor because they can’t afford a mattress.

To help raise funds for the Furniture Bank, we’ll be hosting the Chair Affair on April 25, 2019 at Moore College of Art. We’ve partnered with 10 local artists in celebration of our 10th anniversary who have all chosen a chair from the Furniture Bank and turned it into a work of art. Artists were chosen by Guest Curator Damon Reaves from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and represent a diverse array of mediums, styles, and backgrounds. Their chairs, along with many other great items, will be auctioned during the event to support our work.

We’re excited to settle into our new space next month, to increase our capacity to ensure that each family entering the Furniture Bank has the opportunity to choose furniture that fits their personal style and transforms their space into a home.

And that has more impact than you’d think. As one of our furniture recipients told us, “when I come home I have a place to lay that’s mine. You know, I have a piece of furniture that I can sit on. It gives you more than a sense of dignity. It gives you more. When you make it home after a hard day’s work and you see your stuff, it’s a relief.”

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