Furniture poverty is a very real issue in the UK. Only 2% of social rental properties are let as furnished or partly furnished in comparison to 29% of private rented properties. This means that women and children leaving domestic abuse refuges are given completely empty homes. At the same time, families in England can no longer access furniture through local welfare assistance, and most furniture projects in London and across the rest of the country have closed due to the high cost of commercial space. Cold, empty unfurnished homes have a harmful impact on physical and mental health and recovery from trauma. Women escaping domestic abuse have very often left everything behind, and in some cases, lack of furniture has driven women back to abusive situations, desperate to give their children a bed to sleep in.
Meanwhile, 22 million pieces of furniture are discarded in the UK every year. The majority of this is sent direct to landfill, while 110,000 tons of furniture that is thrown away is re-useable in its current condition. New products that have only been used by brands for showroom display, commercial or editorial shoots, for trade shows, or products that are returned by customers and cannot be resold, are routinely disposed of by brands, designers and stylists.
Waltham Forest based charity Furnishing Futures works in partnership with the interiors industry to repurpose high quality products that might otherwise be sent to landfill, and with Solace Women’s Aid, Lloyd Park Baby Bank, Highams Park Food Hub and other local grassroots organisations who refer re-homed women and children to Furnishing Futures for furniture and white goods. The charity then combines social work values with interior design skills to create healing homes for families who have experienced multiple disadvantages and trauma, in particular women and children who are moving on from domestic abuse refuges. In practice, this means that they don’t simply deposit mismatched pieces of furniture into homes; they design them holistically with recovery and wellbeing in mind, in a way that makes women and children feel valued.
Treebeard is providing unrestricted funding for three years to help Furnishing Futures secure increased warehouse space and build its core team to support organisational growth.