Welcome to Oyate Tipi Cumuni Yape

Furniture Bank Network

Ending Poverty Behind Closed Doors

Alexandra Béasse

What is a Furniture Bank? Many people have come to understand the value and importance of food banks across Canada and North America.  A Furniture Bank operates on a similar premise. Generous donors “deposit” gentled use furniture and household items, and people in need “withdraw” what they need to furnish their homes. 

Client Quote: “Is it too much to want to have curtains?”

Who Are Our Clients?  Women and children leaving shelters, people transitioning from homelessness, youth aging out of Care, newcomers and refugees.  Many of the people we serve come from housing situations which are at best temporary.  Many do not have access to funds to support furnishing an apartment and Social Assistance often barely covers first and last months rent.  Furniture Banks are an ethical and fair method to turn four walls into a home.

Client quote: “Receiving my furniture made me feel worthy.”

How do Furniture Banks Support Community?  Reuse organizations like Furniture Banks can create significant social opportunities including employment and volunteerism, skills training, and a supportive employment. Staff and volunteers, many who have been previous clients, gain work related skills while giving back to their communities.

Volunteer Quote: “I was once a client, now I want to give back, and in doing so I am gaining pre-employment skills.”

Where are furniture banks located? In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Oyate Tipi Cumini Yape, which in the Dakota Language means “Where the community lives, sharing and recycling” is one of 45 members of Furniture Link which is a collective of furniture banks from across Canada and the US.  Founded by Annalee Sawiak, Furniture Link’s philosophy is to redirect unwanted furniture to furniture banks to encourage recycling, sharing, upcycling, and reusing.

Executive Director of Oyate Tipi quote: “Four walls do not make a home, but when you fill it with furniture and love, you have a one!”

How do Furniture Banks support a sustainable economy?  Furniture Link works to redirect unwanted furniture already in motion to the Furniture Bank Network.  This strategy avoids duplicating infrastructure costs and minimizes the carbon footprint of transportation solutions.  Wherever possible reuse and refurbishment is chosen over recycling. For this to work, Furniture Link looks for revenue-share based funding models to create sustainable flows of goods and funds to furniture bank charities across Canada and the United States,

The Toronto Furniture Bank’s website states: “We are the most socially and environmentally responsible furniture removal solution!”

One Staff’s Story:

Jeffery” (not his real name) aged out of care in 2018, he was fortunate enough to be part of a supportive program which set him up with his first apartment with furniture from a furniture bank.  After a few short-term jobs, Jeffery joined the staffing team at a furniture bank as a casual staff member.  Currently this is his only source of income.  His hours vary from week to week but he is able to survive, in part to making a living wage per hour as defined by the area in which he lives.  Since being hired, Jeffery has gained skills in the area of First Aid/CPR, the use of Personal Protective Equipment, and non-violent conflict resolution skills.  Jeffery’s employer has also supplied him with steel-toes boots, high-vis work shirts, and leather gloves.  Jeffery shared “I was not looking for a handout, but because of this program I am extremely thankful.”

To learn more about Furniture Bank, visit www.furniturelink.co.  

To learn more about Oyate Tipi Cumini Yape, visit www.oyatetipi.com/about

To learn more about The Toronto Furniture Bank, visit www.furniturebank.org