Sarah Ford | December 4, 2013

A Simple Bed is a Coveted Prize for Those Who Don’t Own One

Flavia Ford sat behind the wheel of her sister’s car, unable to move. It took only half an hour to get from her new apartment in Northeast Washington to this warehouse parking lot in Silver Spring, but in truth it had been a very long journey.

Two years ago, Ford and her now-7-year-old daughter, Sheikira, began roaming the streets, all of their possessions in just three bags. They slept in the back of a truck, on the hard floor of an ATM enclosure and, on lucky nights, in hotel beds.

Finally, three months ago, Ford, 30, found an affordable place to live. Now, through a stranger’s donation, she would be able to take the next step toward building a new life.

The anticipation was paralyzing. Her cellphone rang, but she didn’t pick up.

“I’ve got to get myself together,” Ford said, wiping away tears.

She reminded herself that homelessness had not crippled her; here was a chance to let go of the past.

On this November day, she and Sheikira would finally get their own beds.

Of all the clothes and furniture given to the poor at the Silver Spring nonprofit A Wider Circle, no item is more desired — or valuable — than a bed with a good, clean mattress.

What more intimate piece of furniture does a person have? It’s the cushion from exhaustion, refuge from a bad day, the place where parents read to their children.

But the supply has rarely met the demand, especially as the number of clients at the charity has grown from 2,180 in 2007 to more than 17,000 today. They come for job training, business suits, toys and furniture — especially beds.

About five years ago, Executive Director Mark Bergel kept overhearing staff members explain to clients that a pull­out sofa was just as good as a bed, he said. That didn’t ring true to Bergel, who decided to donate his own bed and vowed to sleep without one until every person in the country had a bed. Even as what might be called an extreme idealist, he knew that wouldn’t happen quickly.

“I rarely get a good night’s rest,’’ Bergel said. “I have a bad back. But for us, the bed is a symbol of comfort and empowerment.”

When Ford called in August…

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Source: The Washington Post

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