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Helping With Furniture volunteers helping hundreds of Ottawa residents off the floor

A civil servant who has been volunteering with the organization for 13 years says the need for their service is greater now than he's ever seen.
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Volunteers gather at the Helping With Furniture warehouse.

Moving is hassle under the best circumstances. When it comes to settling in a new country, escaping a desperate situation, or transitioning into a healthier environment; relocating can be a tremendous undertaking.

But the people at Helping With Furniture, a volunteer organization in Ottawa, believe that it doesn’t have to be. 

Knowing how difficult it can be to settle into a home, they strive to do anything they can to help clients move into homes and access everything they need to thrive.

Jason Miller, a civil servant in Ottawa, has been volunteering with Helping With Furniture for the last 13 years, he says the need for their organization is greater than ever right now.

“People probably don’t realize that there are a number of people who are suffering. Before, our clientele was mostly refugees, like during the Syrian crisis, but that has changed significantly,” says Miller.

“I would say that a lot of that had to do with COVID. You hear those horror stories, like people were in an abusive situation and then were stuck at home only for the situation to get worse. So, we saw a lot of that, and we still see a lot of that.”

Helping With Furniture consists entirely of volunteers, bringing together over 200 people who all strive to achieve the same goal. Not only do they want to see their clients comfortably settled into their own home, but they also want them to feel dignified and worthy.

According to Miller, donations of gently used furniture, household goods, monetary donations and fund raisers are essential to keeping their organization operating, but those are not the main piece.

“Whenever people hear about us, they might offer a donation, but I’ve always said, how do you find the right people who can become passionate like us?” says Miller.

“Getting the right people at the table, that’s the main piece. It’s folks from the city or the right corporate sponsorships that boost this organization. It’s important to get volunteers in different roles and with different strength sets.”

While their operation was quickly deemed essential during the earliest days of the pandemic, Miller says that health restrictions have resulted in a hybrid model, but he hopes to return to normal operations eventually.

“We used to have a crew who would go in after a move with a little toolbox and help set things up. Set up a bookshelf or hang curtains kind of stuff. That stuff can’t happen anymore,” says Miller.

Despite the difficulties during the pandemic, Helping With Furniture has continued to offer their services to people in the city. In 2020 they furnished 390 homes and they expect to furnish over 400 by the end of 2021.

“There’s a massive need for our services. I think that’s what pulled me in, when you start to see it. You walk into a house and there’s literally nothing,” says Miller.

“The very first house I walked into, there was a refugee from the Congo with a six-week-old baby. They were both sleeping on the floor on a blanket, and that’s all they really had. We come in with all the furniture and we set up a bed and crib, and I was so happy to know that they weren’t sleeping on the floor. That was huge, what we do makes a massive difference.”

Miller says that they are not just an organization that drops off furniture. They take pride in their ability to connect clients with the means to better their lives.

“It gives them something to be proud of, and something that they own. And they can build from there,” says Miller.

“There’s always people that need to get rid of something, or they’ve just upgraded something in their homes. And, if it’s still in good shape and can still be used, it is something we’d be happy to take.”

For more information on Helping With Furniture and ways you can help, you can visit their website.

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