Food, clothing, and shelter are considered necessities of living. But imagine enjoying shelter with nothing to sit on or no television nor bed to lie on at night.
This is the reality of those transitioning out of homelessness. With the help of the Dallas Furniture Bank, many are one step closer to finding security.
“There’s an importance of pride in ownership and stability when you have those basics,” said Aliah Henry, CEO of Dallas Furniture Bank. “We sometimes take for granted the items that we can just go and get, like a bed. We don’t think about those families that are just starting over or a family that had to up and leave in the middle of the night.”
DFB was founded in 2003 as a way to bridge the gap in social services that were already present in Dallas County. Founders Sheryl Fields Bogen and Jerry Szor spearheaded the initiative after acknowledging the lack of furniture resources for families trying to secure housing.
MISSION: Since 2003, Dallas Furniture Bank has provided furniture to over 2,750 referred families transitioning from homelessness.
SAVE THE DATE: 11th Annual CHAIRity Friendraiser, Feb. 17, 2016 at the Belo Mansion
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What started in Bogen’s garage has grown into a 13,000 square foot warehouse in Carrollton, complete with a showroom of donated furniture and accent pieces. Items range from sofas to beds, chairs to dining room sets, bookcases, and desks.
“We have volunteers that will help stage things so that when our clients come in, it’s like they’re shopping at a regular store,” Henry said.
DFB collaborates with partner agencies to give the organization greater outreach. These partners send qualified referrals to DFB. They include Behind Every Door, The Family Place, and Shared Housing Center, to name a few. The latter is how Tasha Mohammed, a single mother of three school-age girls, was introduced to DFB.
Every quarter, DFB sends out a notice to its partner agencies about their “You Make My Home Smile” Project. With this project, volunteers from DFB have an “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” moment. They go into the families’ homes and set up furniture, home décor, and all the bells and whistles.
Each partner agency sends in a unique story of a family in need, and the staff at DFB votes on a family to “make their home smile.” Mohammed’s story won them over.
Mohammed relocated to Texas nearly three years ago to find a safe living environment and quality employment, rebuild her credit score, and form a solid foundation for her family. She entered a transitional housing program through Shared Housing Center and successfully completed the program. Her girls never missed a day of school.
“This woman did everything that she needed to do within the program to get herself re-stabilized,” Henry said.
While Shared Housing covered the move-in fees, DFB did their magic on the inside, furnishing the living room, dining room, and three bedrooms.
“My little ladies and I are beyond blessed to have this furniture,” said Mohammed, who now has a job. “It will benefit us in ways that words cannot describe.”
The organization hopes to move into a bigger space and add staff to be able to take in more donations and better serve families. Henry wants to help thousands of families by 2017, and she wants the community discussing DFB well before then.
“I want to figure out ways to make our mission really important,” Henry said. “We talk about the North Texas Food Bank, but I also want us to be able to talk about DFB and why it’s important. I guess I’m on a little bit of a mission.”
Residents play a huge role in this, too. DFB has two trucks that pick up three days a week for residential donors, who can call or go online to schedule a pick-up.
“I think that that there’s success in being able to see people get hopeful about their lives again,” Henry said. “Seeing some of these kids that are touching their beds for the first time — those are things that keep me focused.”