Project helps homeless get a second chance City and charity team up to collect used furniture

January 29, 1996|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Second Chances, a program that provides household goods to homeless families, is teaming with the Westminster maintenance department to increase its stock of furniture.

It may seem an unlikely alliance, but those involv at Second Chances after their weekly pickups of discarded furniture. There, Second Chances coordinator Lynne Balant will sort through the items to determine what the charity can salvage for low-income families. City workers will take the rest to Northern Landfill.

"It's one of those things that's so obvious it takes a pair of fresh eyes to see it," said Karen K. Blandford, Westminster housing and community development administrator. "And those fresh eyes belong to Lynne Balant."

Ms. Balant, a VISTA volunteer with Human Services Programs Inc., which oversees Second Chances, came up with the idea because she frequently saw usable furniture left at curbside to be picked up and dumped at the landfill.

Second Chances retrieved some of the items, but the charity group doesn't have the resources to pick up items regularly.

"I have one volunteer with a van, and he's only available once every two to three weeks," Ms. Balant said.

She proposed her idea to Westminster public works and housing officials, who were receptive to it.

Ms. Blandford sees many benefits to the proposal.

"It will put to good use the usable discarded furniture of Westminster residents and allow homeless families to start over again," she said.

The plan also might reduce the amount of bulk trash the city takes to the landfill. However, cutting disposal costs depends on the quality of the discarded furniture.

Early next month

Westminster pays $45 a ton to dispose of solid waste at Northern Landfill, said Tom Beyard, director of public works and planning.

Mr. Beyard supports the idea of recycling used furniture, but said he doesn't want the city public works department "to become a pickup service."

He said maintenance workers probably will begin making stops at Second Chances early next month.

Located at 23 W. Green St., Second Chances accepts furniture, clothes and household items to distribute to needy families. First priority is given to residents of the five shelters operated by Human Services Programs Inc.

Ms. Blandford said a typical household might need a couple of beds, a kitchen table and chairs, dressers, something to sit on in the living room and a coffee table.

By the time a homeless family saves enough to cover a rent security deposit and open utility accounts -- an amount close to $1,000 -- Ms. Blandford said there rarely is money left for furniture.

More furniture needed

"If you've given up your belongings along the way, putting together the bare minimum to get into a new apartment is an almost insurmountable task," she said.

And Second Chances' stock of usable goods isn't sufficient to meet the needs of the families who seek its help.

The organization will continue to rely mainly on donations for the majority of its inventory. But supporters of Second Chances' collaboration with Westminster government hope that the arrangement will allow the charity to meet the needs of more homeless families.

"We don't think we'll close the gap 100 percent," Ms. Blandford said. "But anything we can do to help out makes a difference."

Second Chances accepts donations at 23 W. Green St. from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

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