California – Westwood: Furnish the Homeless

Amir Hakimi

What organization did you volunteer with, and where were you located?

I chose to volunteer with Furnish the Homeless. We collect Westwood residents’ unwanted furniture at the end of each academic quarter and donate it to previously homeless individuals that are transitioning into permanent housing. This way, we prevent illegal dumping around our UCLA community and provide meaningful items to individuals who need them most.


Why did you choose to volunteer with Furnish the Homeless?

Furnish the Homeless has given me a hands-on experience in assisting the underserved population. Rather than giving a monetary donation and never seeing where it ends up, we as a team personally deliver the items to our previously homeless clients. As such, we are involved in the entire donation and delivery process from picking the item up from a student’s apartment to setting it up just right into a client’s home. It’s truly an incredible feeling when my team members and I are able to turn a completely empty house into a beautiful home using furniture that students were going to discard.


Does Furnish the Homeless have a UCLA connection?

Furnish the Homeless began at UCLA in the Fall of 2012. I’m proud to say I’ve been with the organization since its inception.


How did your experience influence you? What knowledge or insights did you gain during your time of service?

Prior to my experiences with Furnish the Homeless, I had no idea transitional housing existed. My UCLA friends Sam and Kian Asanad and I noticed the abundance of good quality furniture that piled up in the streets of Westwood at the end of every quarter, and we knew there was a more efficient way to allocate these resources. After much research, we learned
that homeless individuals can qualify for temporary housing, but that their housing often comes completely unfurnished. Thus, in a sense, these individuals are still homeless given that they perform much of their daily activities on the floor. Furnish the Homeless has opened my eyes to the significance of the furniture we take for granted daily. Seeing our clients often becoming emotional at the sight of a couch or bed has shown me how important it is to give back to my community, and has inspired me to give back even more.


Did you experience any culture shock during your volunteering?

The majority of our clients live in underserved communities throughout Los Angeles. While the comfort of the Westwood community quickly disappears as we venture off toward these neighborhoods, the direct personal connections we make with our clients are no different than the interactions we have with our friends. One of Furnish the Homeless’s biggest goals is to bridge the gap between our donors and clients. We always encourage our donors to accompany us on our delivery trips to see exactly who is receiving their items and to learn their stories. Every client has a different story, and each story teaches us something new about that person and about ourselves. Most students who join us on a delivery are inspired to join our team and continue giving back throughout their time at UCLA and beyond.


What was a typical day like for you?

The day begins at 8:30 am. Three team members meet by the U-Haul truck; we discuss our pick-ups and drop-offs for the day and get going. We typically pick up furniture from about six students’ apartments, which takes us until around 12:30 am or 1 pm. From there, we take a break, refuel, and enjoy some team bonding over lunch. After lunch, we drive to our client’s home. At a client’s home, we provide them with as much furniture as they need, as our inventory permits, and afterward we sit with the client to learn more about his or her story. Speaking with the client is one of my favorite parts of the day, and seeing what a difference we have made in a client’s life gives our team the energy to go on for the rest of the drive.

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