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This article was published 26/5/2006 (4888 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They could live in empty apartments, sleeping on the floor next to their children. They could couch surf, moving from one friend's house to another, trying to scrape together the cash to buy their own furniture. They could — and many do — dumpster dive, scouring garbage bins and back lanes for items strangers have discarded.
Or they could turn to Oyate Tipi, a non-profit organization committed to helping women and children who have fled abusive relationships. Their clients are referred from 10 family services agencies, often after they have left emergency shelters.
"It seems obvious why some of these women return to their abusive partners," says Mandy Richard, Oyate Tipi's manager. "It can be easier to face physical abuse than to try to start fresh."
The furniture program, she says, supports women who make the tough decision to leave.
"We basically say, 'here you go, you've taken this big step. Here's this gift. We hope it helps'."
The organization works out of a donated warehouse on Selkirk Ave. Tomorrow, though, they're holding a huge furniture drive at the Golf Dome on Wilkes. They're asking Winnipeggers to drop off gently used furniture and household items.
Last year at the first drive, 16 tons of furniture were received. They're hoping to do better this year.
While the group will be grateful for any donations, they have a top 10 list. They're looking for dressers; kitchen table sets; cribs (CSA approved); pots and pans; blankets and pillows; small kitchen appliances; TVs and stands; bath towels and face cloths; shower curtains and bath mats; and mops and brooms.
"We help 300 women a year," says Richard. "They make an appointment, they come in and we give them everything they need. Most women receive a full living room, kitchen, beds, dishes, pictures and knickknacks. They have nothing. In some cases they've left with just what they're wearing."
The difference, says Richard, is that the women who flee are often poor to begin with. They have no way to replace what they've left behind.
Many of the women who come looking for a hand up are on social assistance. Others are the working poor, heading out to low-paying jobs and rarely getting far enough ahead to make major purchases.
"There was one woman who was trying so hard," says Richard. "She and her kids were sleeping on the floor."
The furniture drive can be looked at as a reverse garage sale. Instead of spreading your stuff out on the front lawn, bring it to the Golf Dome. Their volunteers will load up a semi, take it to the warehouse and do it again until all the furniture has a home.
This is not an occasion to "shop" for used furniture for yourself.
"We know we're going to get tons and tons of furniture but it's all going to be gone in a couple of months," says Richard. "There is just such a need."
No mother should be forced to look through a dumpster to find a bed for her child. If you've got furniture you don't need, please find a way to bring it in to the Golf Dome tomorrow.
It's an act of kindness — one that will bring hope to a woman who has lost that and everything else in her world.