Windsor

Furniture bank reopens for refugees and formerly homeless

The recently restarted program hopes to help 1500 people over the next year, where people can use provided gift cards to shop for furniture at ReStore.

The store closed in 2017 after serving 500 families

Jacobs Ajima and his family moved to Windsor from Nigeria this summer. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Jacobs Ajima couldn't wait for his kids to come home so they could see the new look of their living room. 

"I'm sure there's going to be the 'oohs' and the 'aahs'," laughed Ajima, who is settling into his downtown Windsor apartment with his wife and three kids. 

The Ajima family moved to Windsor from Nigera this summer and spent Thursday morning rearranging their living room with items from the recently reopened furniture bank. 

"It's a bit comfortable now, thanks to Matthew House."

Executive director of Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex Fiona Coughlin, left, and the executive director of the Matthew House Mike Morency were involved in the reopening of the furniture bank. (CBC News)

Purchasing items with provided gift cards

The furniture bank is an inventory of donated household items that organizations helping newcomers, refugees and formerly homeless people can access to help their clients.

"We're working hard to provide housing for people at Habitat for Humanity and we want to make sure we set them up for housing success," said Fiona Coughlin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Windsor-Essex.

The former furniture bank closed after the City of Windsor sold the building where the items were held. 

The new furniture bank will be facilitated by ReStore, where clients would purchase items with gift cards provided by the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborate and the Matthew House.

'Restoration of their dignity'

"Refugee claimants who come to Windsor-Essex have been stripped of all of their dignity," said Mike Morency, executive director of the Matthew House Refugee Welcome Centre.

"Really it's about supporting a restoration of their dignity and supporting them, developing independence where they can thrive in their community."

Watch Jacobs Ajima describe life in Windsor: 

Jacobs Ajima describes what life has been like in Windsor since moving here this summer. 0:54

The re-opening of the furniture bank was made possible by a $75,000 seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

For the Ajima family, it meant a chance to speed up their settling in process by freeing up money for other items. 

'Fulfilling joy'

Sitting on a chair from his new dining room table set, Ajima said he's most looking forward to when he'll be able to help another refugee family into their new home. 

"Oh I mean that would be, it's going to be a fulfilling joy. There will be contentment that I was there for someone."