On campus at UCLA, sophomore Amir Hakimi observed a troubling ritual that occurred when each academic quarter would end: classmates moved out of housing and placed piles of perfectly good furniture out on the streets, no longer needing couches, tables, chairs and other items, but not knowing how to dispose of them properly. So Amir and his friends Sam and Kian conceived a great idea to help put the unwanted furniture into the hands of local families transitioning out of homelessness.
Furnish the Homeless helps prevent unlawful dumping of furniture around the Westwood community by scheduling free pickup of bulky furniture items right after finals week. Once the items are collected by Amir and his crew of volunteers, the team drives a van to the unfurnished homes of their previously homeless clients. There, the volunteers transform their clients’ houses into comfortable homes to help speed up their transition back into society and provide relief from the expense of buying costly furniture.
Amir knew about special programs that assist homeless individuals and families in getting into housing with help from counselors and case workers. But he also learned that often these previously homeless people struggle to maintain their new lives, given the added responsibilities of keeping up a home and creating financial stability from almost nothing. The houses usually come unfurnished, which creates challenges for people initially trying to break out of the cycle of poverty. To help visually communicate with donors the real impact their gift has made, Amir uses social media to share images of furniture items being delivered to homes. He talks excitedly about the sense of accomplishment he feels, stating “There’s really no better feeling in the world than being able to make a positive impact. There are thousands of volunteer opportunities out there that aim to make a difference in the world, and if you can’t find something you’re truly passionate about, start it!”
The group began with three volunteers and a rental truck. Today, Amir leads a team of 18 enthusiastic students and a van of their own. Their combined efforts have brought nearly 200 pieces of furniture to 30 families transitioning out of homelessness. And Amir has reached out to students at other universities in California to start affiliates of Furnish the Homeless. The growth of his enterprise has skyrocketed, as Amir recalls this story from the group’s early efforts:
“We filled up a 14-foot rental truck in the first three hours of our first day and had nowhere to store the items to continue collecting. So we took very desperate measures and stored the furniture under my carport at home temporarily. My parents were not too pleased to come home to couches, tables, chairs, and a pinball machine almost completely blocking our front door. However, after the collection drive, all of the items were distributed, and my parents were happy to have supported their son’s crazy idea.”
According to Amir’s friend Aria Hangval, “I have never met an individual so passionate about his work, and with the ability to influence others to similarly engage in community service.” Seizing the day to help solve a problem and turn it into a creative opportunity to help those in need, Amir Hakimi is a genuine Point of Light.
Tell us about the dynamic people in your community doing good deeds and finding solutions to everyday problems through volunteer service. Submit a nomination for the Daily Point of Light Award at http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/recognition/dpol/nomination