In August of 2004, a Pittsburgh resident felt called to stop her car and offer help to a woman with two young daughters who were living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Pittsburgh. She discovered that the family had no beds, tables, or chairs. Working with volunteers from her local church, they were able to locate and deliver the furniture the family needed. Soon they discovered that nearly every family on the block was in the same dire straits; the volunteers realized they had been awakened to an ongoing need. Volunteers from that church were, over some months, able to provide for the needs of those additional families. Off the Floor Pittsburgh had been born.
Over three years, the ministry grew alongside the number of families helped. We established a Board of Directors. Motley, ad hoc volunteer groups, were replaced by volunteer teams based in eight local churches who picked up and delivered donated furniture on a rotating schedule. We rented box trucks when able until, finally, we purchased a used truck of our own, superseding the parading caravans of pickup trucks, minivans, and station wagons. A warehouse facility replaced the sundry storage units used to hold furniture. Part-time employees were hired to plan and manage weekly pick-up and delivery trips. Health and social service agencies discovered Off the Floor Pittsburgh and began to refer clients who were living without furniture.
Typically the families helped by Off the Floor Pittsburgh are headed by women with 2-3 children. Their circumstances vary. Sometimes the furniture they receive allows mothers and children to be reunited (or prevents them from being separated). Some families had come out of dependency programs or shelters, been illegally evicted or had suffered a disastrous fire, causing them to lose all of their belongings. Two young families had recently come to Pittsburgh from Somalia.
The referral agencies that partner with Off the Floor Pittsburgh can readily refer clients in need of basic beds, tables and chairs. They reinforce our experience that there are countless poor families and individuals in the region who desperately need the services of Off the Floor Pittsburgh in order to live with dignity. At any given time, there is usually a backlog of more than thirty potential recipients.