Written by Sunnie Lain, Coordinator of Vincentian Support Services
One of the most well-known sayings among Vincentians is, “No work of charity is foreign to the Society”. In that spirit, we try to find out what the most pressing needs of our neighbors in need are and address them. For many of the people we serve through our Conferences, those needs might be housing, food, or utility assistance. Another way that we help our neighbors is through our Furniture Voucher program.
When a neighbor in need reaches out to one of our Conferences, the Vincentians ask the client what they are in need of. One of the most common requests is furniture. Sometimes, the neighbor will not ask directly for furniture, but when we are meeting with them in their home, we often notice that the need exists and we will ask them if this is something we can help them with.
Many of the people we serve do not own their homes, and they may move from a furnished apartment to one that is unfurnished. Some of our neighbors are transitioning from homelessness to housing and have no furniture. Sometimes we meet with domestic abuse victims who had to leave an abusive situation with just the clothes on their back. We see neighbors who have had a fire that destroyed their belongings. The epidemic of bed bugs makes replacing furniture a necessity. For this and many other reasons, furniture is a frequent need of people in poverty. Many people are surprised to hear that there are people right here in Dayton who are sleeping on floors, mothers and children sharing an air mattress or keeping their clothing in plastic bags for want of a dresser. One neighbor we visited had dragged a wet, moldy box spring in from the alley behind her apartment and was sleeping on it for lack of any other place to sleep.
When a Vincentian volunteer sees the need for furniture, they will give the person they are assisting a Furniture Voucher. This voucher can be redeemed at our Community Store, located on Edwin C. Moses Blvd. The neighbor can go into the store and select what they need within a specified budget.
At. St. Vincent de Paul, we feel that it is important to give the people we serve the dignity of selecting their own furniture, rather than selecting it for them. They know best what they need, their taste and style, and what will fit in their home the best.
After the client has selected the items they need, they are given a date and time, usually within a few days, when the furniture will be delivered at no charge. They are also welcome to take it with them the same day if they have a way to transport it.
We are happy to be able to offer this service to our neighbors, and we have heard so many times from them how much of a positive impact having the furniture has had on their lives. Being able to provide someone with a good bed to sleep in, a place to sit and relax after a long day, or a place for a family to eat a meal together is one of the most rewarding parts of serving our neighbors in need.
In the case of our neighbor who was sleeping on a wet, moldy box spring, we were able to provide her with a good mattress, box spring, and bed frame, as well as bedding. When we met with her again, she told us that she felt “like a queen” every night when she went to bed. The bed we provided her with was just part the story—the dignity and hope the bed represented was worth just as much to her as the furniture.