This Sydney Charity Is Helping Women In Crisis Situations Set Up Homes For Free

Relove co-founder Ren Fernando stands wearing a purple top next to images of the ReLove warehouse containing dining tables and lounge chairs
CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses domestic violence.

When fleeing a crisis situation from family or domestic violence, furniture might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but having a furnished place to go is incredibly important when taking the steps to leave a dangerous situation.

In moments like these, time is of the essence, and women aren’t often able to take everything they own with them, leaving them with the problem of entering an unfurnished space which is both expensive and time consuming to fit out.

However an independent charity in Sydney is on a mission to change this by curating a store with furniture, homewares and everything one could need to set up a home, all for free.

ReLove in Sydney’s south-east was created almost by accident. Ren Fernando and her friend Ben Stammer discovered that one of the reasons why women’s refuges were full, was that despite access to social housing, the houses came unfurnished, which made making the jump from a furnished refuge to an unfurnished house incredibly difficult. 

This discovery coincided with the ‘COVID spring cleans’ that were sweeping the nation and resulted in copious amounts of furniture being hurled out onto sidewalks. The pair joined the dots and ReLove was born.

They started off wanting to support five women find access to housing with everything they needed. They collected furniture and homewares and enlisted help of family and friends to bring everything together. They quickly achieved this goal and then kept on going.

Inside the ReLove warehouse. (Photo: Chad Konik)

Three years on and they’ve supported over 1,600 families, typically giving people around $10,000 to $15,000 worth of furniture to help people start a new life.

“We set them up with everything they need. We make their beds, we put the cutlery and crockery away, take away the rubbish and make it as stress free as possible.” Fernando told PEDESTRIAN.TV. 

“I think furniture is something that we don’t think about when we think about people relocating at a time of crisis. So that moment of being able to get the keys to your new place is a moment where you’re really starting to think I can have a new life and you need everything to be able to do that.”

Around 75 per cent of the people ReLove works with are women and children leaving domestic violence situations, and according to Fernando, providing women with everything they need at the precise moment they need it is “critical” to breaking the cycles of violence and poverty.

The ReLove warehouse is full of different styles of lounges, beds, dining room tables and has a section with beautiful artwork, vases, cushions and all the trimmings that make a house a home. 

Fernando said that giving people the dignity to choose how they want to start again and having choice over how your new home will look is an important part of stepping into your own future. 

“Choice is something that is a privilege and what we really believe is giving people choice at a time of great disempowerment has a measurable impact.”

Chairs and lounges inside the ReLove warehouse. (Photo: Chad Konik)

The amount of furniture that is tossed away in Australia is a major environmental issue. It’s the second largest problem in landfill with millions of tonnes going to waste each year. Diverting furniture that would normally go into landfill from hotels, offices, television sets and a variety of other sources into the homes of people who need it is equally an environmental solution as it is a social one.

ReLove is fastidious with the furniture they take, ensuring it’s of the highest quality for their clients, inclusive of brand new pillows and doonas. 

The whole charity is run via a community of volunteers and is non-government funded. Fernando noted that it takes a whole community approach to be able to make ReLove work and it’s the tireless work of the local community that keeps the wheels of ReLove turning. 

For Fernando, the work they do is a “no brainer” and she was surprised that a project like this wasn’t already happening before they started three years ago. ReLove is targeting both a serious environmental issue and social issue all at the same time, and it results in beautiful homes for those who need it.

Read more about ReLove here or how to can get involved here.

Help is available.