The Baltimore Furniture Bank, co-founded by 2019 OSI Community Fellow Damien Haussling as a way to help connect those coming out of homelessness to essential furnishings free of charge recently moved into a new, larger space.
Haussling sits amid recent donations in the Furniture Bank’s new warehouse space.
Haussling got the idea to collect and distribute gently used furniture to people in need after experiencing a brief period of homelessness himself. When he and his roommates began looking for a place, he said he had a significant number of friends offering to give them some items to help furnish their place—an extra expense that many struggle to afford.
“I could look around my apartment and know who provided each piece of furniture,” he said. Haussling realized then that that not everyone had that kind of support, so he set out to create a resource that anyone in need could access. Thus the Baltimore Furniture Bank was created. The organization’s recent move, especially in a year like 2020, is a big deal.
The new space, located in the former Maryland Book Bank building on Union Avenue, is still under construction, but according to Haussling, will have a room separate from the main storage area where the donated furniture will be cleaned and sanitized, then measured and photographed. The plan is to have a portal on the Furniture Bank’s website where case workers and social workers can help their clients select furniture. Initially he’d hoped the portal would have been up and running by this summer, but the coronavirus pushed the timeline back.
However, while the portal progress was put on hold, the organization didn’t sit idle. The Furniture Bank was able to help facilitate the distribution of more than 300 free desks to kids in need in the Baltimore area through the Baltimore Kids in Need of Desks (BKIND) Campaign this September.
The new space is filling up quickly, and Haussling says there’s no shortage of people in the Baltimore area who have furniture to donate. The next challenge, though is establishing a consistent pick up and distribution system. Currently, Haussling, and the two other co-founders, Tony Simmons and John Devecka, depend on a handful of volunteers and contract-workers who help out with trucks when time and availability permit.
Additionally, Haussling has plans to visit similar established furniture banks in Silver Spring and Houston, TX to learn from them. And with additional grant money coming in, as well as monetary donations, Haussling would like to have a few full-time employees – and be able to provide paid time off. Given that Haussling and his partners have been able to not only steer a startup through a global pandemic, but also make good progress to growing that organization, his goal seems within reach.
“If I have anything to say about it, Baltimore will have a furniture bank!” he says.