A Sheffield-based community project has urgently requested donations to combat furniture poverty as referrals have increased by almost fifty percent.
St Vincent’s Furniture Project collects and redistributes furniture and household items to people living in poverty, long-term homelessness or domestic abuse.
Robert Senior, 53, full-time driver at St Vincent Furniture Project said: “These people have got absolutely nothing. It’s horrifying to see.”
Mr Senior describes the “massive mix” of deprivation in Sheffield, where collections have been from houses worth £3 million. The furniture is then delivered to a family living “just five minutes walk away”, where the parents might be sleeping on the floor.
“The difference is unbelievable.”
Shannon Gabbert, 31, Centre Manager for Sheffield, describes street culture as “really strong” for people living in long-term homelessness.
She said: “The street is their home, so the risk of people giving up their property straight away is very high.
“We try to go in as soon as we can to try and make it a successful new home for them.”
St Vincent’s Furniture Store, Queens Rd, Lowfield, is a community support project of St Vincent de Paul Society and is the only service provision in Sheffield that gives away items for free.
The organisation delivers through a referral scheme mainly from Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Housing Association and the NHS.
Between November 2021 and January 2022 referrals increased by 45 per cent compared to the previous year.
Ms Gabbert said: “Most of them are very vulnerable. We are supporting a lady who has had to move three times because her ex-partner keeps finding her. So she has to move on to try and get away from him.”
“We’ll find out that since we’ve given someone a bed they’ve been sleeping better, their mental health has improved, they’ve started looking at employment or reconnected with their families.
According to St Vincent’s 2020/21 Impact Report 61% of referrals were because of financial hardship.
Helen Smith, 73, volunteer at St Vincent’s said: “We get a lot of replies from the agencies telling us this is the first time the children have had beds to sleep in or a dining table where they could do their homework.”
Anyone wishing to donate and arrange a collection can contact the store on 0114 270 3990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.