HARD-UP families are turning to a city charity in desperation for help furnishing their homes.
The Guild Initiative for Furniture Trust, Gift 92, was set up in the Guild year 25 years ago, and provides household goods to people in need across Preston.
But the charity has seen a major increase in demand, delivering furniture to 457 homes in 2016, and 550 the previous year.
Despite the apparent fall in numbers over the past 12 months, leaders say the only reason for the decrease is the closure of a number of referrers who direct people to the charity – there is no reduction in the numbers needing help.
Volunteers say they are seeing more families than ever before struggling to make ends meet, with the charity helping more than 900 people per year. In the past 10 years, Gift 92 has helped furnish nearly 5,000 Preston homes.
Chairman Peter Metcalf, speaking from the Boundary Road warehouse, said: “This is for people on benefits, people with very low incomes who are struggling with young families.
“Young families get given a property by a housing association who will have cleaned the property out, they will then make a referral to us and we’ll help them set up.
“A lot of what we do is for young families, or single parents with family breakdowns.
“We also have people who are disabled, or people who have possibly been in prison and they’ve lost everything, we try to get them set up again.”
The charity relies on donations, and the warehouse can be virtually emptied if there is a high demand.
Peter said: “Because we are dealing with 10 lots of people a week, it hits the deck here then disappears out again.
“In 2015 we helped 550 cases – families, couples, individuals – it shows what the state of Preston is.
“It is because more and more people are in difficulty now. If you get into financial difficulty, your furniture could be taken away.”
The furniture donated to Gift 92 is given to the “most vulnerable” people in the community.
Peter said the charity receives about 1,400 donations each year, and runs a “discreet service”, trying not to let clients visit the warehouse at the same time.
The number of people helped by the charity rose from 469 in 2013 to 550 in 2015.
In the most recent 12 months the number has decreased, but Peter said that was because the number of referrers had fallen because of cuts to local authorities.
He said: “We have fewer referrers because of local authority cutbacks affecting adult social services, Surestart centres and the closure of charity referrers suffering funding cutbacks. There are plenty of people needing help.”
In 2016, 1,403 collections were made.
The charity is now in its 25th year. It has grown over the years, but is still desperate for donations.
One staff member, Joe, works to collect and deliver furniture, and said: “The biggest difference is this used to be more single people, there’s more families now.”
Colleague Martyn Lawton said: “We are proud that people can come along and choose what they want.
“It empowers them a little bit.”
Martyn was helped by the charity 12 years ago, so he volunteered seven years later and now works for Gift 92.
He said: “I felt like I was giving something back because they helped me.”