These volunteers are what makes this program successful.
by Ross Williams
Kathy Powell is the founder of The Moving In Project, a local grassroots community effort that helps to provide furnishings for the newly housed homeless. This year they have provided furnishings for 120 households and have had the pleasure of serving 200 people. In the 2-½ years since its inception The Moving in Project has helped to furnish a total 234 households and created warm welcoming environments for 373 people.
Ten years ago Kathy lived in the neighborhood close to Harbor Church. There in the church’s courtyard homeless people would often congregate; playing music, using the facilities to shower and dress and spend time just hanging out. At the church were a variety of people; Veterans, those with disabilities or mental illness, those that struggled with abuse or addiction, those with financial hardships and elderly people who just couldn’t afford an apartment. Their stories were layered and tragic and always had some devastating circumstances that had led to their current situation. Kathy understood their positions. Their stories grabbed at her heart and so she began to help.
Kathy always wanted to be a chef and she had the opportunity to do so at Harbor Church where she ran the kitchen. “I always wanted to have a restaurant and I loved the experience. Everyone wanted to be a part of the restaurant.” Her favorite thing to make was quiche. A local country club would often donate food items after Sunday brunch and that allowed Kathy access to ingredients for daily fresh squeezed juices and the ability to explore her culinary creativity.
Then everything changed. The church closed their doors due to a controversy, but Kathy had already moved on and had been doing outreach in the homeless community in various ways. It was then that Kathy found out that she had cancer and although she won the battle she had to have a lung removed leaving her immune system compromised. With that her role as a volunteer was uncertain. Then the pandemic hit.
Shortly after the pandemic started the homeless were moved into hotels and motels via Project Room Key. When she was finally able to volunteer again a man that had volunteered with her called her called about a woman that he knew. She had been given permanent housing, and as great of a gift as that was, there was a problem. She didn’t have anything. Not a couch to sit on, not a plate to eat off of. Not a pillow or a lamp. A wonderful opportunity came with a lot of open-ended questions and concerns and to make things harder she was nearly blind.
Kathy wanted to help. She reached out to her network and asked if anyone could contribute. The donations poured in and they kept coming. Soon the program took shape. Lynn Gellar helped Kathy start The Moving in Project and different people stepped up to volunteer in various ways. One woman makes bathroom boxes, another makes stationary boxes. Some make kitchen boxes. A local shelter hires a guy with a box truck to transport furniture and veterans come and help with the moving process. One man was living on the streets for 12 years. Now he’s found a way to give back by becoming a volunteer driver for the program.
The three main sources of donations are realtors, the community and houses of faith. Case managers work to find the homeless a place to live. That’s the hard part. Kathy’s role is to get the furniture for the people. She asks important questions in order to understand each individual’s specific needs. What they like, what they need, if they enjoy cooking, and if they have any kids. Then people get to pick out their furniture.
The costs of operating the program are approximately $ 1,000 a month, from storage rentals to U hauls and that $1,000 can make for a huge impact. It keeps furniture out of the landfill and gives the furniture a whole new life. Not to mention it keeps Kathy’s life vibrant and jam packed.
People are implored to donate, but only items that are in good condition. When discussing the condition of the donated items Kathy says “The items have to be good enough to give to a family member that you like!”
The Moving in Project is associated with the nonprofit Lift Up Your Voice to End Homelessness.
If you would like to contribute to The Moving in Project please contact:
Kathy Powell 805-910-8860 [email protected].