Furniture bank looking sparse as more newcomers head to Saint John

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The YMCA of Greater Saint John is expecting more than a dozen newcomers to arrive in the next few weeks, but the furniture bank that serves these families is pretty much empty.

The Lancaster Baptist Church at 87 Church Ave. is holding a furniture drive Saturday to replenish its stockpile of donations, which has diminished since its launch at the end of 2015.

“Ideally, we like to give our clients as much agency right from the beginning as we can, and sometimes it’s just the luxury to be able to choose between two coffee tables instead of being handed one,” said Angelique Simpson, the vice-president of Newcomer and Community Connections at the Y.

“Just having a few options there is always appreciated.”

furniture-bank-saint-john Furniture bank looking sparse as more newcomers head to Saint John

Donations to the furniture bank inside the Lancaster Baptist Church have thinned out, but there will be a chance Saturday to drop off gently used furniture for newcomers to the city. (Submitted by Pastor Wayne Murphy)

Within a year of its opening, the furniture bank helped furnish homes for more than 700 newcomers, back when the federal government began its resettlement program to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.

The Y is now dealing with a lighter load — welcoming just over 100 newcomers from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, Jamaica, China, South Korea, Syria, Russia and other countries in 2017 — but it’s still drawing from that furniture supply two years later.

About 50 per cent of new arrivals last year came from Syria. The Y is anticipating a similar trend for this year.

“The load is less, but there are certainly individuals who are arriving with what they’re able to carry,” Simpson said.

“Some of that initial flood of goodwill has been depleted, and newcomers do continue to arrive.”

People can drop off items at the church Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

syrian-resettlement-donations Furniture bank looking sparse as more newcomers head to Saint John

The furniture bank played a pivotal role in assisting families during the Syrian resettlement in 2016. (Submitted by YMCA Newcomer Connections)

Simpson said they are looking for furniture in good shape, like kitchen tables, couches and headboards, as well as household items such as pots and pans, cutlery, dishes, table lamps and toys.

A set of bunk-bed frames can go a long way, she said.

The furniture bank won’t accept mattresses, sofa beds and furniture deemed to be unsafe.

“We don’t want any tables that need significant repair, that may fall on a child, but otherwise if it’s in your home and you found it helpful, it’s very likely that a newcomer to Canada will find it helpful as well.”

Donations can also be arranged through appointments with the church.

Neither the Y nor the church is able to pick up donations, but Simpson said assistance may be provided on a case-by-case basis.

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