“THAT lot will be gone in a week, “ said Lorraine Healey, indicating a huge pile of sofas piled up to the ceiling in a Sheffield warehouse.
Lorraine works in St Vincent’s Furniture Store on Queens Road, which helps vulnerable and homeless families make a start in a new home.
The charity, which collects old furniture, renovates it and delivers it on to people who need it, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.
Project manager Lorraine explained: “We get people from a lot of different backgrounds, more people that have lost their jobs and can’t afford their mortgage and have to move out, whereas at one time it was just the homeless and people with medical needs.
“When people haven’t got enough stuff we will provide a bed to sleep on, something to sit on, something to cook on and with and to eat from.”
Some of the cases that Lorraine and her team deal with are heartbreaking. She said that they helped the family of a woman with HIV, who had teenagers aged 14 and 17 who were HIV positive. The father had died of AIDS a year before.
The family struggled to cope and had to move around a lot because, once they were settled into a new home and started to make friends, people found out about their medical conditions and became hostile.
Lorraine said: “She said to one of our delivery drivers, ‘It makes you realise that there are still good people in the world’. You think, ‘There but for the grace of God…’”
Another case concerned a woman of 72 who finally plucked up the courage to leave her abusive husband.
St Vincent’s helps a lot of women who have fled from domestic abuse, leaving everything behind them.
The clients that the team help are referred to them by charities and organisations including Sheffield City Council and the NHS.
She said that the charity’s workers and volunteers meet families only once, when they drop off the items they are donating. It’s a big thrill for staff when they get a good response.
She continued: “When the driver goes in and there’s a bed being delivered the kids are really excited. They might have been sleeping on the floor or sharing a bed with other family members. Now they’re actually getting a bed! The drivers love that.”
For Lorraine, working for the charity has been a life-changing experience.
She worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland until three years ago and spotted an advert for the job.
She said: “I was working for this big organisation making money and I thought what am I doing? Then this job came up. It was if it was meant to be.
“It’s fantastic, the good that you feel you’re doing. You go from working in a stressful environment hitting targets. The targets here are all about doing somethig good for people.”
One volunteer, Martin, is a qualified budget coach who can help families cope with sorting out their money problems. He will be starting up a service to help families struggling with their finances.
Lorraine said that advice centres in the city are under strain because of budget cuts, so St Vincent’s wants to help.
The service will start on April 1 and Martin wants to train other volunteers to help as well.
To find out more, contact St Vincent’s on 0114 270 3990.
The charity takes donations of all sorts of furniture and household goods, except very big items that would be impractical for families in small accommodation. Items can be dropped off at the furniture store or collection can be arranged. Call 0114 270 3990 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.