Sometimes, a green chair is more than a piece of furniture.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new meaning to “staying home.” In the past two years, many of us have spent more time in our homes than ever before. Yet the ability to stay safe at home depends on more than just walls and a roof.

The items inside our homes – furniture to relax on, tools to cook with, and clean linens to sleep and bathe with – allow us to maintain health, independence and dignity. Unfortunately, too many Veterans exit homelessness with little-to-no furnishings or funds to obtain such essential items when moving into their new home.

According to Dekevias Atkinson, a social worker at the Durham VA, “It is not enough for Veterans to receive a key to a property. Furniture and household items are essential to help formerly homeless people, including Veterans, feel comfortable and connected in their new homes.”

Furnishing the future

The partnership between Durham VA and The Green Chair Project was featured in this year’s VA National Community Partnership Challenge for the partnership’s ability to adapt in a changing world.

The Green Chair Project changes lives by providing well-equipped homes that nurture and sustain individuals. Through donations and community partnerships, the organization collects items and allows families to “shop” for the furnishings they need.

During the pandemic, The Green Chair Project pivoted to a virtual model, allowing Veterans to work with their assigned Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) case manager to select items for their homes online safely.

In its first decade alone, The Green Chair Project has served more than 6,000 families and distributed nearly 150,000 furniture donations. Among these recipients are many grateful Veterans.

“Excited about my new chapter.”

Upon reintegrating into civilian life from prison in April 2020, Veteran Keith Prestwood struggled to find both employment and housing. He considers the Green Chair Project responsible for his progress and success thus far.

“I didn’t know where I was going to get my furniture from,” Prestwood said. “I was in an apartment complex, in my apartment, with no furniture. I’m excited about my new chapter and what I’m going to be facing down the road. I’m more independent now than I’ve been in a long time.”

Veteran “J,” 67, had been homeless for several months. He describes The Green Chair Project as fundamental in providing furnishings for his one-bedroom apartment obtained through the HUD-VASH Program.

“The Green Chair Project alleviated the stress and anxiety of moving into an empty apartment,” J said.

The ability to invite his family to his apartment and share meals around his table provides him a sense of normalcy, dignity and pride.

The impact of this partnership carries through nearly every aspect of a Veteran’s life after homelessness. J summarizes it best as, “Green Chair gives Veterans hope.”

More information

  • Click here to learn more about the VA-Green Chair Project partnership or explore VA’s Homeless Programs website to discover if you and your family are eligible for housing benefits.
  • Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
  • Subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

By Shawn Liu is a community engagement coordinator with the VHA Homeless Programs Office

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Published on Dec. 8, 2021

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