Chicago Furniture Bank helps fill empty homes

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Over 18,000 people at risk for homelessness receive affordable housing in Chicago, but many of them are given keys to unfurnished homes.

Until recently, Titiana Weathers and Tyjuan Bryant were living out of their car with their 4-month-old daughter.

"It wasn't no good feeling," Weathers said. "It put you in a predicament, especially when you have a daughter."

Even though they were placed in affordable housing, there was another hurdle for them to overcome - they had nowhere to sit or sleep. Their house was completely unfurnished. For many at-risk families, furnishing an apartment can be extremely costly. But the Chicago Furniture Bank is helping families like Weathers and Bryant's overcome this challenge - they completely furnish these empty homes.

Andrew Witherspoon, a co-director for the organization, and his colleagues began this initiative when they saw gently used furniture being tossed in the trash at the end of each school year.

"As college students who have moved every year, we definitely saw friends and future students who would wait to the last day of their lease to throw everything out," he said. "And that is truly just a waste."

He and his staff started collecting gently used furniture from businesses and homes that donate and bring them to their 22,000 square-foot warehouse.

The Chicago Furniture Bank mimics a showroom experience. Once one of the 200 social service agencies that the non-profit partners with identifies a family as eligible for its services, they schedule them for an appointment at the warehouse.

The process begins with a staff member reviewing a list of items they can choose from, and then gives them a roll of tape to mark the items they want. Once they select their items, the staff will load the furniture into a truck and deliver it to the home - a process that would be both time consuming and expensive for these families to do on their own.

"They came here and got the job done," Weathers said.

The furniture bank celebrated its one-year anniversary this July. Their goal was to furnish 400 homes for 1,000 people, but they more than doubled that number - they furnished 850 homes for 2,200 families, Witherspoon said.

Recently, the Chicago Bears awarded Chicago Furniture Bank $100,000 to continue improving the lives of families like Weathers and Bryant's.

"Just knowing I could walk in the house and lay in my bed, that's a good thing," Bryant said.

To donate to the Chicago Furniture Bank, please visit:
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