Monday, October 24, 2016

Dana Turns a House into a Home - with the Help of the Dallas Furniture Bank and the MDHA Flex Fund

Imagine waking up on your last day of homelessness. This is it. Today you are going to be housed. Your case manager picks you up, and with your few belongings you arrive at your new home. With a sense of hope and some trepidation you slowly open the door… to an empty apartment. Well, unpleasant, but no big deal, you might say; just go out and buy some furniture, right? Well, not if you don’t have money for furniture. Still, no worries, you might think, just save up a little money, and then buy furniture. Well, not if you have chronic health challenges, can’t work, and your sole income is $733 a month from Social Security. 
The Bridge, a Dallas shelter and homeless assistance center, Courtesy of The Bridge
Now, you may have to imagine what this would feel like, but Dana (name changed to protect her privacy) does not. What I just described was her actual predicament. She had worked hard with her case manager, Nicole, at The Bridge, and she had moved into a Dallas Housing Authority apartment. She was no longer homeless, but that apartment was completely bare, and she had no way of buying furniture on her own. And, living in apartment without any furniture can sometimes feel like you are barely a step above being literally homeless. As Our good friend, Dr. Iain De Jong, renowned expert on homelessness, writes: “If you leave the apartment unit blank looking, it is going to feel more like a prison cell or place where they may have squatted, than a place to call home.” Dana could certainly identify with that.

So, what to do? Fortunately, Dallas is blessed with the Dallas Furniture Bank (DFB)! As DFB’s website eloquently states, it “fills the missing gap” that resulted in Dana having an apartment, but not much more. As the website explains, “Though many of our agency partners provide housing for those in need, the resource of furniture is not provided to approximately 90% of these families. At Dallas Furniture Bank, we believe that living spaces should be filled. Furniture not only fills a house with practical comfort, but also instills a sense of hope and dignity… resulting in increased chances for self-sufficiency, higher levels of self-esteem, and long-term stability.”
Aliah Henry, CEO, Dallas Furniture Bank, Courtesy of the Dallas Furniture Bank
Earlier this year, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) struck a partnership with DFB, through which folks just like Dana could fill a furniture order from DFB, and have the cost of the order ($250, on average, including a $60 delivery fee) covered by the MDHA Flex Fund.  The MDHA Flex Fund was designed by MDHA and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to address minor but impactful expenditures, just like this one, that can help clients resolve their homelessness. All Nicole, Dana’s case manager, had to do, was pull up a simple one page form, available in the guidebook on MDHA’s website. Under DFB and MDHA’s partnership, Dana could choose up to five basic furniture items, plus a bed frame. Nicole and Dana discussed what furniture would be most helpful to her, and Dana chose a sofa, a coffee table, a dining table, two dining chairs, and a queen size bed. Nicole filled out the form, marking down Dana’s selections, and sent the form over to Shavon, at MDHA. Shavon approved the request, and submitted it to DFB. 
Dr. Iain De Jong, CEO, OrgCode, Courtesy of OrgCode
DFB then called Dana in for her private appointment. It felt great to shop in style at their facility, and choose her very own furniture.  The furniture was then promptly delivered to her new home. Dr. De Jong emphasizes the impact that selecting one’s own furniture can have, “A lot can be said for the new tenant having a say in the furniture that goes into their unit, rather than them just being handed furniture that they had no say in… While I have seen many a chronically homeless person be overcome with emotions on the day of move in when they get their keys, I have seen more actually break down and weep with joy when the furniture that they picked out arrives, and they have a say in where it is set up in their place. Powerful.” Dana couldn’t agree more…


  1. These organizations are making a difference in Dallas every day! Thank you.

  2. That is amazing. I bet I may know the soul of this story, thank you!!!