By Hilary Caton, Communications Coordinator
In the past the CAMH’s Gifts of Light program has been asked, frequently, to supply clients with furniture but it simply didn’t have the resources or the space to pull it off—until now.
The CAMH Foundation has officially teamed up with the Furniture Bank— a charity and social enterprise that collects gently used furniture and provides them to individuals and families in need—to provide clients with furniture for their homes when they integrate back into the community.
“Gifts of Light is all about providing our patients with dignity and care, so a huge part of that is ensuring that when people leave the hospital they have a comfortable place to go to. And for a lot of people that’s not the case,” explains Quinn Kirby, Manager of Gifts of Light.
“So if we’re able to help provide resources to make their lives a little bit better and more comfortable, that’s the purpose of this program.”
This collaboration marks the Furniture Bank’s first partnership with a hospital and has been five years in the making. Thankfully CAMH had the unwavering perseverance of Social Worker Reena Sirohi, from the Social Determinants of Health Service who helped make this partnership a reality.
“We have so many clients living in poverty, living in situations of homelessness, transitioning from a hospital to the community, or going through fires or bed bugs. There are so many reasons why they need furniture, but can’t access it,” Reena explains.
“Being able to provide them with this piece of their recovery allows them to then benefit from the other mental health services they receive because there’s only so much medication and therapy can do if they’re returning to inadequate living conditions.”
How does it work?
The service is advertised to CAMH clinicians, who decide if this service is needed by their clients. The clinician then fills out the form and it’s sent to the Social Determinants of Health Service who coordinates the trip to the Furniture Bank warehouse in Etobicoke.
The Furniture Bank offers two programs. The first allows clients to choose furniture room by room as well as dishware at their warehouse with the help of volunteers and the furniture is delivered within 48 hours. The delivery and appointment fee of $175 is covered by Gifts of Light and currently has the capacity to help 200 clients.
The second is a new initiative called House to Home, where volunteer interior designers create a team to consult with the client about their likes and needs, transform the home and do a grand reveal. Since the partnership began in March 2018, the service has helped 80 clients; one of them was Sharyn.
Five years ago, Sharyn lost more than just control over her life. She lost her four kids and a stable home environment for her and her family, after a psychotic episode. But she’s been working hard to get her life on track with the help of Anne Marie Roberts, her nurse case manager in CAMH’s Expanded Forensic Outpatient Service program.
“Her oldest child, who has a young son, is living with her now, which is great and she’s doing extremely well. She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do in terms of looking at what happened and preventing it from happening again,” explains Anne Marie.
But something was still missing. She was lacking the furniture she needed to make it a home. But Sharyn was given a light at the end of the tunnel through Gifts of Light’s partnership with The Furniture Bank.
Sharyn was the first client to use the Furniture Bank’s House to Home Program and she couldn’t be more grateful. Her home was refurnished a week before her birthday and she finally felt comfortable enough to host a party.
“You can change someone’s entire living situation by donating to help fund this service. It’s that full circle effect, they’re not only getting support here, but they’re also getting support when they leave,” Quinn added.
“And that’s such an incredible story.”