Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting furniture back FROM the refugees!?

It's been a while since I've added to this blog. Then again, there's a lot here. Some good, some bad, but if you don't see what you are looking for please browse around. I like to think that mixed in with everything else, there really is a lot of good stuff here on the topic of how to get furniture and give it to refugees who need it. But some of it's tucked away and buried, so look please.

Which brings us to an idea I've been toying with for a while. People give a lot of furniture to refugees but no one really focuses on getting it back when they don't want it anymore. And if this were done, then it would provide a lot of people with a lot of things that they could use.

Yes, it sounds funny, and like most such things it's much easier to speak about but due in practice.

Here's the situation. The State Department mandates that refugee placement agencies must give all refugees a certain amount of furniture of certain kinds. In addition to this refugees also receive extra furniture and such of whatever kind happens to be sitting in the donation storage room that someone thinks they might be able to use and no one wishes to store anymore (i.e. I've given several coffee makers to refugees. Do refugees need coffee makers? No, but people donate them and then the best thing to do is to give them to the refugees. It's that sort of thing.)

However, some items on the list are not really needed by the refugees. For instance, the State Department mandates that each refugee be given a bed and this bed should consist of a mattress, box spring and a bed frame. In practice, however, a surprising number of refugees see no need for the bed frame and instead just place the box spring on the floor and put the mattress on top of it. It's just the way they like to do things. Therefore, a large quantity of these cheap metal bed frames wind up tossed in hallways and backyards where they get wasted. If the refugee center were to find a way to collect these things, then they could be redistributed and perhaps even given to someone who might actually use them.

Secondly, refugees often live unstable lives. They move a lot, particularly during their first year in the USA and this is also the year during which they have the most contact with the refugee placement agency. When they move they often leave things behind, particularly large bulky items like couches. If the refugee center were to find a way to keep an eye out for these moves or encourage the refugees to think of redonating the items they do not need then it could prove to be a valuable source of donations for the center.

They also occasionally get rid of old furniture when they, through one means or another, get better furniture. Since few refugees have a van or a pick up truck, the old stuff often gets tossed out instead of redistributed.

Getting furniture back from the refugees when they don't want it? It's an idea worth exploring.

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