Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Loss of funding leaves used-furniture charity in limbo

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A Winnipeg charity that collects used furniture for people in need has lost a major source of funding and must reduce most of its operations.

For 12 years, Hands of Hope has delivered furniture to people who can't afford to buy furniture. Earlier this month, it found out it won't receive the $100,000 grant it has been getting from the Winnipeg Housing and Homelessness Initiative, which will all but end their charity.

"We were not chosen this year," said Charles Norris, who started the charity with his wife, Sandra, in January 2000.

Norris said Hands of Hope got its start while he was chairing a World Vision program through his church to get people to help others in their community.

"We found out almost all the needs were for furniture and nobody was willing to do it," he said. "We started out taking stuff out of our own house, and then others started."

Norris said on any given day, Hands of Hope gets 100 phone calls from people looking for help -- seniors who are sleeping on the floor, refugees who arrived with nothing but the clothes on their back, a homeless man who won't be released from the hospital until he can find a roof over his head and a bed.

Last year, about 1,700 families were helped by Hands of Hope.

The charity has had to lay off four of its five staff, meaning there is nobody to pick up and deliver the furniture. After Sept. 30, the charity won't be doing much and its warehouse will sit mostly empty.

Norris hopes to get donations from the private sector or the general public to try to keep the furniture moving.

Hands of Hope has received differing amounts of funding from the federal government via the homelessness program since about 2003.

Dave Dessens, Winnipeg housing policy co-ordinator for the city, said there was not enough money for all the projects that applied for funding.

"We did receive a lot of great proposals that weren't quite as good as the ones above them," he said.

There was about $6.5 million to distribute for designated projects. There were 42 proposals received and 26 of them were approved by a community advisory board.

"I wish everybody could have received funding," Dessens said.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 B2

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