Poverty issues and communities

While we have certainly shared in Healy’s frustration about being unable to donate used furniture, I feel Healy’s comment was misplaced.

Re: a letter to the editor by Bruce Healy (‘Take my couch, please’ The NEWS, June 9).

While my husband and I have certainly shared in Healy’s frustration about being unable to donate used furniture (we took a sledgehammer to a large entertainment unit last year, when no one else would take it), I feel that Healy’s comment (“some of our local social service agencies need to take a hard look in the mirror”) was misplaced.

I have worked in Community Social Services in B.C. for quite some time, through the good times and also through the bad.

So, I feel that, generally speaking, most of the local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are doing the best that they can under the circumstances (egs: SOS, The Salvation Army).

In my opinion, local NGOs are providing services that the government should be responsible for, with little if any financial support from either the province or the feds.

The fact of the matter is that many NGOs have been in deficit, since the 2008 recession, and have reluctantly laid off many of their dedicated paid employees. (I was one of them in 2010).

As a result, they are relying more and more on volunteer staff members, and private donations (goods, clothing, and money) to keep the home fires burning, so to speak.

It has been my observation, that there are several reasons why local NGOs, many of which run thrift store operations, cannot accept donated furniture: 1. size… many of the donated furniture items are too big to be resold; 2. storage… NGOs cannot afford the storage space in which to temporarily house large pieces of furniture, until they are sold or donated; 3. sanitation… NGOs will not accept many used donated items, which they cannot guarantee are in sanitary condition; 4. sensitive information… even if a member of the public wanted to drop off a piece of furniture to a local person in need, NGOs are not allowed to reveal a client’s personal information to another private citizen for confidentiality reasons.

Unfortunately, until both levels of government (or private benefactors) provide more financial support for more local Community Social Services, such as donation programs for used furniture, with paid employees to administer such programs; then used furniture will most likely end up in ‘free’ piles at the end of local streets, or in landfills throughout BC.

In conclusion, if Healy and other residents are concerned about people with low incomes, then perhaps they should ask their local MLAs exactly what their political party is doing to directly address local poverty issues (affordable housing, child poverty, welfare rates, etc.).

I can already see what the positive impact NGOs are having, in my local community.

Adele CameronVancouver