We all know rents in Marin County are extremely high. It’s difficult for our essential workers like police, teachers, and firefighters to be able to afford a home. For the economically vulnerable it is even harder. Then there’s furnishing it.
As individuals, we’d love to be able to make a difference, but the problems seem overwhelming. There is something we can do.
Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Welcoming Home (www.welcominghome.org) is a nonprofit organization based in Marin that is doing just that and making a big difference. For over five years, Marin residents Marsha Roberts and Greg Hansen, along with a host of volunteers, have been fully furnishing and outfitting the homes of people transitioning out of homelessness.
If you have furniture, small appliances, or other household goods in good shape that you don’t need anymore, you can donate them to an individual or family in need. Local businesses, civic and social organizations, and groups of friends can pool their efforts by sponsoring the furnishing of a home and building camaraderie at the same time.
Welcoming Home is a place where residents can make a difference in their community. Last year, the nonprofit fully furnished 39 homes for over 90 people and saved over 50 tons of furniture and household items from the landfill. The organization furnishes four homes in Marin and three to four homes every other month in Sonoma. Local social service agencies such as North Marin Community Services, Gilead House, Homeward Bound, and Marin Housing Authority refer clients to Welcoming Home.
Once individuals or families are referred to Welcoming Home, a small team of volunteers visits them to talk about their needs and to measure their homes. The residents receive “starter kits,” including beds, table and chairs, dishware, pots and pans, and linens. These basics hold them over until the remaining furniture and household items are delivered.
Generous locals quickly sign up to donate everything from welcome mats to sofas. There are added benefits of donation: “Besides furnishing homes for those who have just transitioned from homelessness,” Marsha says, “two additional, equally important objectives for us are to save gently used goods from going into the landfill and to have these items donated from one individual/family to another. ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ is one of our mottos.”
Items that are purchased include beds and mattresses. When the final items are delivered on Welcoming Day both Birch Circle Movers and North Bay Moving and Storage donate a truck and movers.
On “Welcoming Day” morning, donors line up in cars to drop off their contributions. Volunteers check in, sort, and box items. At the same time, moving vans are picking up larger items, like sofas and dining tables. Once all the donations are loaded on the vans they deliver them to the homes. The recipients are asked to leave for a few hours while volunteers stage the furniture, make beds, set up desks, fill kitchen drawers and cabinets, hang pictures and recycle all the boxes. When they return it is to a comfortable home.
“We don’t want to just provide furniture,” Greg says. “We want to give these people—who have been through such hardships and trauma—a home they can be proud of, that helps to rebuild their self-esteem.”
A formerly homeless woman who was recently helped by Welcoming Home had this to say,
“Thank you, Welcoming Home, for doing for me and my family what I couldn’t do for myself in a million years. It may seem like just furniture, but for me it’s much more. Seeing artwork on the wall, being surrounded by my favorite color, a space to work rather than a card table has filled me with a sense of pride and purpose I haven’t had in years.”