New Furniture Bank Policy a Burden on Case Workers

by Brian Davis 

    The St. Vincent DePaul Cleveland Furniture Bank after a little over one year have changed their policies for receiving help.  The furniture bank was created after a series of newspaper articles and the closing of First Step Alliance as well as a Leadership Cleveland study outlining the needs.  St. Vincent DePaul jumped into the gap created by the loss of First Step Alliance and after a series of starts and stops, they began providing furniture to those moving into housing. 

    The concept of a furniture bank is similar to that of a Food Bank in collecting surplus or used furniture and redistributing the items collected to lower income people moving back into housing.  This usually involves picking up the furniture with a fleet of trucks and delivering it to coming out of the shelters or other temporary living situations.

    The furniture bank has advertised a new policy that will require all those who want a donation of furniture they must bring a case worker with them for the initial intake screening.  According to the Cleveland Furniture Bank release, “The number of clients…has grown to over 500 being referred each month.  These increases have challenged our limited operational resources.”

     “I don’t think that is fair, because not everyone has or needs a case worker,” said Tyrone Jones who is a member of the Homeless Congress and moved into housing late last year. According to the Furniture Bank release, 40% of the people who make appointments at their Biddulph Road site actually show up, which is the reason for the change in policy. 

    Most case workers have hundreds of clients, and will have a difficult time meeting this requirement of accompanying their clients to an appointment. 

    A number of staff at various social service agencies felt that this reduces access to furniture by homeless people especially from agencies with high case loads.

    “That would be such a great demand... I couldn’t possibly go out there every time someone wanted furniture... I have such a big caseload,” said Cathy Walker, housing placement coordinator for Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry at 2100 Lakeside, the area’s largest men’s shelter.

Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 82 October 2007