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“Let’s Go Live in a Tree House”: The Housing Crisis in Canada

For years, Canadian politicians have been debating how they will handle the housing crisis in Canada. If you neither own a home nor really pay attention to politics, you’ll be wondering what exactly it means for a country to have a housing crisis. The housing crisis itself is pretty straightforward – what isn’t straightforward is how to solve it. Let’s get into this issue.

The Issue

On the one hand, we have rising costs of living, including not only home ownership but also rent, utilities, etc. On the other, we have people coming into different parts of the country who are able to buy houses and are contributing to the rising costs of housing all across the country. Despite the fact that there are people who can afford homes, there are many for whom the majority of their paycheck goes to their rent or paying their mortgage.

Ultimately, what a housing crisis refers to is that the cost of housing is more than the income of Canadians. On top of this, the population continues to grow, demand for housing goes up, and so do the costs.

The Answer

The answer seems simple – make the cost of housing proportional to the income of Canadians. However, it’s not that easy. For one, provincial and municipal bodies diverge on how to handle demand for housing; this is because there are many who are choosing to move to Canada, and likely not enough housing for everybody. Currently, the population is 38 billion people, but this is expected to rise to 46.5 million by 2043. Where is everyone going to go? And how are we going to build – upwards, or outwards?

At the provincial government level, officials would be comfortable with building upward, but municipalities are aware that skyscrapers may be uncomfortable and irritating to neighbors, and are unwilling to aggravate them and place added strain on themselves dealing with complaints. Places such as Winnipeg, however, have started to extend their borders and are building out instead of up, as they have also had a surge in their population.

So, what does Canada’s housing future look like? It’s impossible to know for sure, one can only guess. What we do know is, if you need help reducing your home-related expenses, we can help you when it comes to your furniture. Please contact us at the JRCC Furniture Depot if you need help, we’ll be happy to help you.

Highlighting the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies: settlement organizations

Since it was created in 1984, the JRCC Furniture Depot has grown from a local community network into a large non-profit organization that has provided thousands of households with donated furniture items. In 2019 alone, the JRCC Furniture Depot received over 5,000 donated furniture items, and served over 750 families.

Part of the reason for the Furniture Depot’s tremendous growth is the relationships we have developed with partner agencies all across the GTA. These agencies provide social services to marginalized populations across Toronto and York Region, including people living under the poverty line, newcomers to Canada, and more.

All clients of the JRCC Furniture Depot are referred to us directly by case workers at these agencies. We work with over 60 social service agencies, whose clients are often in need of basic furniture items to create and maintain safe and healthy households.

Let’s take a look at some of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies to better understand our clients. Here is a partial list of some of the organizations we work with that help settle newcomers to Canada.

Settlement Assistance & Family Support Services (SAFSS)

SAFSS is a non-profit that focuses on un-served and under-served areas of Scarborough. The organization was founded in 1989 to serve newcomers to Canada, refugees, and victims of all types of violence. Today, they support approximately 13,000 people each year at four different locations in Scarborough. They offer settlement services, counselling programs, legal and housing assistance for victims of domestic abuse, and programming for isolated seniors.

Welcome Centre Immigrant Services

We partner with five locations of Welcome Centres, which are one-stop services that assist immigrants and newcomers to Canada. Welcome Centres provide newcomers with all the services they need to ensure a successful transition into Canada, including English language training, employment support, and legal services.

Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS)

The only Jewish agency in Canada dedicated to the settlement of immigrants and refugees, JIAS has worked with waves of immigrants and refugees since 1922. JIAS offers support to newcomers from all over the world, helping them rebuild social and professional networks and helping find employment opportunities. You can find a full list of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies here. You can support the JRCC Furniture Depot’s mission of providing free furniture to those in need, including clients of these agencies. Contact us today to arrange a furniture or monetary donation, or let us know if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer!

Highlighting the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies: family and child services

Since it was created in 1984, the JRCC Furniture Depot has grown from a local community network into a large non-profit organization that has provided thousands of households with donated furniture items. In 2019 alone, the JRCC Furniture Depot received over 5,000 donated furniture items, and served over 750 families.

Part of the reason for the Furniture Depot’s tremendous growth is the relationships we have developed with partner agencies all across the GTA. These agencies provide social services to marginalized populations across Toronto and York Region, including people living under the poverty line, newcomers to Canada, and more.

All clients of the JRCC Furniture Depot are referred to us directly by case workers at these agencies. We work with over 60 social service agencies, whose clients are often in need of basic furniture items to create and maintain safe and healthy households.

Let’s take a look at some of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies to better understand our clients. This is a partial list of our partner organizations that provide services to families and children in need.

Jewish Family and Child Service (JF&CS)

The story of JF&CS dates back to 1868, when the Toronto Hebrew Ladies’ Sick and Benevolent Society raised money to help poor Jewish immigrants to the city. Today it has become an organization of over 120 staff that work to respond to poverty, violence, and abuse in the GTA community. Their programs focus on increasing safety and security, reducing the effects of poverty, and improving mental health and wellness.

United Chesed of Toronto

United Chesed was founded to address the needs of the thousands of Jews living in poverty in Toronto. They offer immediate and discreet assistance for the short-term needs of Jewish people from all level of religious observance. Every year they provide thousands of dollars to cover urgent expenses like rent, heating, and electricity bills for impoverished people. They also collect donations of household items like appliances, toys, and medical equipment, and refer clients to other community organizations and service agencies.

York Region Children’s Aid Society (CAS)

The Children’s Aid Society works to keep children in York Region safe by providing child protection services around the clock. The CAS aims to keep families in York Region together through problem solving and connecting them to essential services.

You can find a full list of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies here. You can support the JRCC Furniture Depot’s mission of providing free furniture to those in need, including clients of these agencies. Contact us today to arrange a furniture or monetary donation, or let us know if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer!

Highlighting the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies: shelters and emergency services

Since it was created in 1984, the JRCC Furniture Depot has grown from a local community network into a large non-profit organization that has provided thousands of households with donated furniture items. In 2019 alone, the JRCC Furniture Depot received over 5,000 donated furniture items, and served over 750 families.

Part of the reason for the Furniture Depot’s tremendous growth is the relationships we have developed with partner agencies all across the GTA. These agencies provide social services to marginalized populations across Toronto and York Region, including people living under the poverty line, newcomers to Canada, and more.

All clients of the JRCC Furniture Depot are referred to us directly by case workers at these agencies. We work with over 60 social service agencies, whose clients are often in need of basic furniture items to create and maintain safe and healthy households.

Let’s take a look at some of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies to better understand our clients. This is a partial list of some of the shelters and emergency services agencies we work with to supply furniture to those in need.

360ºkids

This organization was named one of Canada’s Best Charities 2020 by Maclean’s Magazine. 360ºkids provides support services to at-risk and homeless youth in York Region. They provide shelter for young people as well as other support services like clothing and food, employment services, and counselling. The organization now serves over 3,500 youth each year.

Inn From the Cold

Inn From the Cold supports people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. During the winter, they offer shelter to people in need, including access to meals, clothing, and laundry and shower facilities.

Blue Door Shelters

Blue Door provides safe emergency housing and housing services for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They operate three locations in York Region: one for families, one for men, and one for male youth. In 2019, Blue Door provided 34,080 nights of safety and 102,240 meals to people in need.

Belinda’s Place

Owned by York Region and managed by the Salvation Army, Belinda’s Place is a multi-service facility that supports single women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. In addition to providing emergency shelter, they also offer housing support for people seeking transitional and second-stage housing, as well as employment services.

Sandgate Women’s Shelter of York Region

Sandgate is a charitable organization that provides 24-hour safe shelter to women and children in need. They also provide financial, legal, and housing assistance, including referrals to services like the JRCC Furniture Depot.

Victim Services of York Region

This non-profit agency works in collaboration with the York Regional Police and Ontario Provincial Police to provide 24-hour emotional support and practical assistance to people who have been victimized by crime or other tragic circumstances. Victim Services offers quick response programs to victims of the most serious crimes, as well as crisis hotlines and support groups.

York Region Centre for Community Safety (YRCCS)

The YRCCS provides services to adults and children who have experienced domestic violence. Their focus is on centralizing services under one roof to make things as easy for these individuals as possible. Among their services are trauma counselling, legal services, and housing and employment consultations. You can find a full list of the JRCC Furniture Depot’s partner agencies here. You can support the JRCC Furniture Depot’s mission of providing free furniture to those in need, including clients of these agencies. Contact us today to arrange a furniture or monetary donation, or let us know if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer!

The rebbe’s teachings on charity

All of the work that is done by the JRCC is built off of the pioneering methods of the international Chabad movement. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as ‘the Rebbe,’ remains the dominant figure of the Chabad movement.

Not only is the Rebbe widely recognized as a pioneer of Jewish outreach, but he was also a prolific writer. His teachings have been published in hundreds of volumes. He also wrote tens of thousands of letters over his lifetime responding to personal requests for blessings and advice, many of which have been collected and published. The Rebbe’s vast body of work allows us to access his insights on an incredibly wide range of topics. So what are some of his thoughts on Jewish charity?

In a talk he delivered on Simchat Torah in 1957, the Rebbe explained that the Jewish people are like a Torah scroll. If one letter in a Torah scroll is damaged, the entire scroll is not fit for use. This applies equally to smaller and mid-sized letters as it does to larger letters. If even a single ‘yud,’ the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is missing, the entire Torah scroll is affected.

According to the Rebbe, the same concept applies to the Jewish people. No matter if they are ‘small,’ every Jew is integral to the Jewish community. The essence of the Jewish community is rooted in each individual Jewish person. Despite our superficial differences, we all belong to the same community, meaning that we are all connected, even to fellow Jews we don’t know or haven’t met.

This idea is easily applicable to the idea of giving charity. When you give to Jewish charities like JRCC Cares, our new umbrella organization that houses the JRCC Furniture Depot, Kosher Food Bank, and other social services, you are helping people who are part of the same community. Although you may never meet the people who benefitted from your donation, you can be certain that your contribution is helping members of your community — repairing letters in the same scroll. If you have used furniture items that are in good condition, including tables, desks, mattresses, box springs, etc., contact the JRCC Furniture Depot today to make a donation and ensure these items can be given to a family in need. (Please note that we do not accept appliances or electronics.)

Recycling household items beyond furniture

Big cities like Toronto have an equally big job in organizing the waste produced by the city’s residents. Each year, the City of Toronto must manage over 900,000 tons of waste. Managing waste properly requires money, energy, and also occupies valuable landfill space. In light of this, it’s important for all residents of the GTA to try to minimize the amount of waste they produce.

Donating to the JRCC Furniture Depot is one way to reduce waste production while also giving your old furniture items a second life, benefitting someone in need. The JRCC Furniture Depot collects donations of used furniture items like mattresses, tables, chairs, etc. and gives them to households in need, free of charge. All our clients are directly referred by case workers working at over 60 social service agencies from across Toronto and York Region, including women’s shelters, newcomer centres, and organizations that benefit chronically ill and disabled people.

By collecting donations of large furniture items, the JRCC Furniture Depot is able to save our clients a lot of money that can then be used on other essentials, like food and clothing. If you’ve already arranged for your used furniture to be donated to the JRCC Furniture Depot, here are some other ways to make sure your household items can find second homes — benefiting both those in need and the environment.

  • The Canadian Diabetes Association collects donations of gently used clothing and small household items. Each year they collect 100 million pounds of donated items, diverting them from landfills and using the proceeds to help fund diabetes research.
  • The Ontario Federation for Cerebral Palsy also collects donations of clothing and other textiles through its Clothing Pick-Up for Cerebral Palsy (CP4CP) program. They also accept donations of other reusable items like toys and games, sporting goods, electronics, and housewares.
  • Oasis Clothing Bank accepts donations of gently used clothing, linens, and housewares including dishes, silverware, and other kitchen supplies, among other items.

If you have furniture items that are in good condition, including tables, desks, mattresses, box springs, etc., contact the JRCC Furniture Depot today to make a donation. (Please note that we do not accept appliances or electronics.)

What is essential furniture?

In 2016, the organization End Furniture Poverty launched a campaign to research the issue of furniture poverty. ‘Furniture poverty’ is a term used to describe the condition of not having essential furniture items.

However, the organization knew that they needed to define this term more precisely, since there is no universal definition of what constitutes essential furniture. Coming up with a list of items was important in order to understand who actually experiences furniture poverty and what specific items they would need to resolve this. The consultation that End Furniture Poverty launched resulted in the creation of the following list of essential furniture items:

  • Bed, bedding, and mattress
  • Table and chairs
  • Sofa and/or easy chairs
  • Wardrobe/drawers
  • Carpets in living rooms and bedrooms
  • Curtains or blinds
  • Washing machine
  • Refrigerator and freezer
  • Stovetop/oven
  • TV

Some of the items listed here may be surprising, or not be considered ‘essential’ by some people. However, the goal of resolving furniture poverty is not just about ensuring that households have the bare minimum of furniture. We cannot say that people from marginalized communities deserve a mattress to sleep on, but not a table to eat dinner at, or desks for children to use for schoolwork.

Rather, resolving furniture poverty is about making sure that even families who cannot afford to invest in large furniture items are able to live ‘normally,’ with the same basic amenities that are available in more fortunate households. Donating furniture is a great way to ensure that your used furniture items can be given a second life as essential items in another household.

The JRCC Furniture Depot accepts donations of many of the items considered essential furniture, including desks, tables, chairs, beds, mattresses, and box springs. If you have gently used furniture that is in usable condition, contact us to arrange a donation today! (Please note that we do not accept appliances or electronics.)

Why furniture is essential

“How do you think you would cope without a bed?” This is the first question posed by the End Furniture Poverty campaign, which is meant to raise awareness around the lack of essential furniture that exists in some households.

The term ‘furniture poverty’ is considered somewhat broad. What might be an essential furniture item to some households isn’t in another. For example, one family might consider a washing machine an essential item, while other households can manage without one, or may not even consider this furniture.

A research project led by the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom created a list of essential items that every household needs to have a basic level of quality of life, which includes things like beds and mattresses, a table and chairs, and wardrobes and drawers. These are all items that are collected by the JRCC Furniture Depot, which accepts donations of used furniture items and redistributes them to vulnerable populations throughout the GTA.

As the final report of the project outlined, furniture poverty is not just about meeting a certain standard of living. It is also about feeling ‘normal.’ For example, a family that is experiencing furniture poverty may not feel comfortable having family over for dinner, or their children’s friends over for a sleepover. In these situations, not having proper furniture has a greater impact than the household’s living conditions — it prevents households from having normal social experiences and can make them feel even more isolated and neglected.

Very often, we take our furniture for granted. Many of us never have to think about how to get a full night’s sleep without a bed, for example. Yet there are many people for whom this is a reality. They might not have the income necessary to make major purchases of large furniture items, or they may have to furnish entirely new homes after fleeing dangerous home situations.

Donating the JRCC Furniture is therefore a great way to ensure that your used furniture ends up with a family who truly needs it. If you have used furniture items like mattresses, box springs, tables, chairs, etc. contact us to arrange a donation today. (Please note that we do not accept appliances and electronics.)

Donating furniture for spring cleaning? Here are some other useful tips

At the JRCC Furniture Depot, we collect donations of thousands of used furniture items each year, and redistribute them to families in need. Our clients are referred directly by case workers at over 60 partnering social service agencies across the GTA. Receiving free furniture helps these clients, 99% of whom are living below the poverty line, establish safe and healthy households.

Spring is usually a perfect time of year to do a deep-cleaning of your household. The weather is nicer, making cleaning and decluttering a much more pleasant experience overall. It’s also a good time to get rid of the grime that may have accumulated over the long winter and freshen up your space.

This is also a perfect time to consider sprucing up your home. Small changes like new paint or decorations can make a big difference, and so can replacing older furniture items. If you have used furniture items that are in good condition, such as desks, tables, or chairs, contact the JRCC to arrange a donation.

Here are some other tips for making your spring cleaning as easy and thorough as possible:

  • Make a checklist

Making a checklist for each area of your home will help you stay organized. Consider dividing up your house by room, and then making a list of everything that needs cleaning in that room. For example, the tasks for cleaning a bedroom might include changing the sheets, washing your pillows, and cleaning under the bed.

  • Don’t just clean, declutter

Things can be clean but still disorganized and cluttered. Use this opportunity to actually get rid of unwanted or unused items, instead of just cleaning and replacing everything. Use a website like the Toronto Waste Wizard to see where your waste items should go, and what’s eligible for donation.

  • Don’t forget walls and windows

 Dust can accumulate on these surfaces too, so be sure to wipe them down. This should include removing and wiping your window screens.

  • Be wary of allergies

If you have severe allergies, you should be aware that cleaning will unsettle a lot of dust that’s accumulated over the winter on furniture and other fixtures. Using strong cleaning products can also trigger allergies, so be sure to use masks, rubber gloves, or other protective equipment.

In the midst of spring cleaning, you may be considering getting rid of your unwanted furniture. If you have items like tables, chairs, desks, etc. in good condition, consider making a donation to the JRCC Furniture Depot to make sure these items can be repurposed and provided to a family in need.

Waste and composting

Every week, households across the GTA sort tons of waste into recycling, compost, and garbage. Local municipalities are responsible for collecting and processing this waste. While many garbage items can be converted to energy at an energy-from-waste-facility, there are still some items that must be diverted to landfills, like broken exercise equipment, or large pieces of furniture.

This is where charities like the JRCC Furniture Depot come in, helping find second homes for used furniture items with vulnerable populations across the GTA. The JRCC Furniture Depot collects used furniture items like tables, chairs, desks, and more and distributes them free of charge to marginalized populations such as new immigrants, women and children leaving women’s shelters, and people with chronic illness or disabilities.

Donating your used furniture to the JRCC Furniture Depot is a great way to make sure it has a second life and can be part of a new home. It also ensures that these items will not end up in landfills. However, furniture donations aren’t an everyday occurrence, so it’s also important to know how you can reduce the amount of waste your household produces on a regular basis!

The number one tip from Waste Reduction Week in Canada on reducing household waste is ‘buy what you need, eat what you buy, compost the rest.’ This is because food waste is a major problem across Canada. Studies show that the average amount of food wasted each year for every Canadian is 183 kilograms of food, or 404 pounds! This is approximately $1,100 worth of food beyond thrown out.

A great way to start a habit of reducing food waste is by placing a small compost container in your kitchen. This makes it easy to remember to redirect food waste into the compost, rather than straight to the garbage. Products that can be put into the compost include:

  • Coffee grounds (and filters)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Nut shells
  • Tea and tea bags
  • Paper towels and cardboard rolls

Composting is a great way to ensure that even our regular scraps don’t go to waste. They can be used for a second purpose. So many things we own and use can be given a second life, like our used furniture! The JRCC Furniture Depot is committed to environmentally friendly solutions to used furniture through collecting donations of used furniture items. If you have unwanted furniture items in good condition, contact the Furniture Depot today to arrange a donation. (Please note that we do not accept appliances or electronics.)