Pontiac — Seanna Newbern, who cares for her 12-year-old brother and 8-year-old daughter, needed furniture to replace items damaged in a move.
The 28-year-old Pontiac resident recently turned to the Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan for beds for the children. Earlier this year, she also received other items including a kitchen table and chairs, end tables and three dressers. The cost: $75.
“It saved me a lot of money because I would have been coming out of thousands,” said Newbern, who stays home to care for her daughter, who is disabled. “It saved me a lot. It was very helpful. It’s a very good thing that they do for the low-income families.”
Newbern is among the 1,500 families annually referred to the Pontiac-based nonprofit that helps people in poverty, works with child protective services or those transitioning from homelessness.
The Furniture Bank said it needs donations from the community as it sees a 65% year-over-year increase in requests for furniture.
One of the reasons for the uptick is the end of the eviction moratorium, said Robert Boyle, executive director for the nonprofit.
“Those families have worked their way through the courts and they’re in hotels and they’re looking to get back into housing,” he said. “We’ve had flood victims, refugees … Social workers weren’t going into homes during the pandemic and they’re starting to do that now. The backlog of folks that have needed furniture is starting to hit.”
Last year, the nonprofit gave out 1,100 dressers. The showroom recently only had a handful of dressers that clients could select.
“We have a lot of dining chairs,” Boyle said as he walked through the showroom. “We’re really short on dining tables right now. We take gently used, useable mattresses and box springs … We’ll give out 2,000 beds a year, and last year about 800 went to kids.”
Boyle said if they don’t have enough items in stock, they raise money to fill in the gap. However, it’s still not enough to fulfill requests this spring, he said.
“Just the pandemic and the backlog seems to finally be hitting us,” he said. “Usually, referrals hit us in the spring, but they’ve started a lot earlier this year.”
As of early April, the nonprofit has provided 369 families with 3,138 items of furniture, valued at about $150,000.
Families are referred from one of 75 health and human service agencies. Clients pay an appointment fee that covers a range of furniture a family might need including mattresses, dressers, sofas and dining sets. A family can furnish an apartment or house for a $150 fee.
“That money, one, it helps us make sure that our trucks have fuel and they’re in good repair because those things ain’t cheap,” Boyle said. “And actually, people show up for appointments if they have a little investment in it. We’re hoping that it encourages folks to make good choices and spend money on things they genuinely need. When they find a better place, hopefully they’ll take the furniture with them.”
Jeanette Schneider, president of RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan and board member for the Furniture Bank, said she’s seen the impact the nonprofit has had on its clients who are looking to create a stable environment for their families.
“Parents often share how getting much-needed furniture will help make their house a home,” Schneider said. “While everyone we see has a different story, there is a universal desire from parents to have a table where kids can do their homework, and the family can eat a meal together and have a bed to get a good night’s sleep. The relief we see in the eyes of parents as they leave with these items is heartwarming.”
As for Newbern, she said she had a good experience with the Furniture Bank.
“They let you walk through and show you everything they got from new to old,” she said. “They let you pick out all of your stuff.”
She had some items delivered this year. When beds were available for her brother and daughter, she went with her uncle in his truck to pick them up. The children, Curties and Sydney, also received new, colorful bedding sets and pillows.
“They loved them, told me thank you,” she recalled. “They’re actually in their room putting it on their beds now … It makes me feel good to make them happy and be able to get what they need and want.”
Donations that are accepted include mattresses, box springs, dressers, dining sets and basic living room furniture, china cabinets, desks and armoires.
Anyone interested in donating furniture can call (248) 332-1300 or visit www.furniture-bank.org to coordinate pick up.