The Partnership for the Homeless

Furnish a Future

 

Lillian

Updating Our Model

In FY2011, we began a significant reorganization of Furnish a Future, triggered in large part by the City’s decision to at first cut funding by more than half, and more recently entirely eliminate funding for the program from the budget, as part of a larger package of cost-saving measures. While this was certainly a setback, we remained committed to Furnish a Future precisely because we believe it is important to helping families return to normalcy. 

We made two significant changes to our program model:

  • We changed how we acquire furnishings. Because of the high cost of warehousing furniture and maintaining inventory, we are now partnering directly with a furniture wholesaler to purchase furniture in bulk at or below cost. Doing so allows us to guarantee the availability and quality of every piece, creating a more efficient program that provides better value for customers. 

    The City’s Department of Homeless Services has helped to identify a source of steady funding to purchase furniture on an ongoing basis, a requirement for the program’s continued success. One resource we have identified is grant money the Human Resources Administration provides to families leaving City shelters to buy furniture. The grant amounts (which vary depending upon family size) while small, when aggregated given the number of families we serve, can go a long way. Indeed, because we can purchase furniture in bulk directly from the wholesaler, guaranteeing a certain amount of grant money, we’re able to make these dollars stretch much further than they currently do.
  • We integrated Furnish a Future with our Family Resource Center. Because the new furniture is warehoused by the wholesaler, this more efficient model has allowed us to close our Bushwick, Brooklyn warehouse entirely and relocate Furnish a Future within our existing Family Resource Center nearby in East New York, Brooklyn. This change will not only help us reduce program expenses by utilizing existing space, but will also enable us to better integrate home furnishings with the resources available through the Family Resource Center. By linking customers with Family Resource Center family advocates and housing specialists, we will be able to provide more intensive, ongoing support and follow-up than ever before, better ensuring that those we assist are able to remain stably housed long-term. 
  • We did not change our commitment to providing an apartment’s worth of furniture, respectful customer service, and linkages to other needed services and supports. Our more efficient model lowers costs, but retains the element of client choice, which is important to the sense of dignity and control that has always been central to Furnish a Future's approach. Customers will still be able to physically visit our new site to work with a dedicated staff person, who will help select their specific furniture package from a catalog, as well as any available options like fabric and color, and place the order for delivery directly to their new home. And, as noted, all customers will also be able to access the resources of the Family Resource Center, including benefits screening, financial clinic, computer room, and our team of family advocates and housing specialists.

We look forward to implementing this new model and continuing our 20 years of helping families turn empty apartments into stable homes.

Imagine living in a crowded shelter with your family for months, and the excitement of leaving that shelter to move into a place of your own. Now imagine coming home to emptiness – no chairs, no bed, no place to store the few belongings you have. You can’t just go buy new furniture since you used up most of your savings on a security deposit. And even if you could afford new furniture, how would you get it to your apartment?

This situation is reality for the families who have come to Furnish a Future. After going so long without a home, they have few, if any, household items with which to make a new start.

But thanks to Furnish a Future, families were able to provide beds for their children to sleep in, tables for homework and shared family meals, and couches for relaxing with family. These seemingly basic comforts are crucial to helping families create the kind of stability they need to sustain new housing. Read Lillian's story.

History

We opened Furnish a Future in 1991 thanks to the vision of legendary philanthropist Brooke Astor. Over the past 20 years, Furnish a Future has helped thousands of families turn empty apartments into homes.

Our original model was simple – corporations, wholesalers, and individuals donated new or used furniture and household goods. Families moving out of shelter and into apartments came to our Bushwick, Brooklyn warehouse and shopped for tables, couches, plates, sheets, the small touches that make a house a home. Then we arranged to have their selections delivered to their new apartments at no cost to them.

But we didn’t stop there. We also took every opportunity to help families put down roots in their new community by connecting them to resources in their neighborhoods, and followed up with them later to make sure they were doing okay and not in danger of slipping back into homelessness.

By ensuring that our customers are able to build a sense of home in their new spaces, we’ve helped them move beyond homelessness.  

For more information, please email Ed Snowden at esnowden@pfth.org.