Home owners struggling, curtain charity says

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Upcycling .. Dunedin Curtain Bank head machinist Marilyn Cook sews a curtain on Tuesday. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Even home owners in the city are struggling to find a cost-effective way to heat their home.

Dunedin Curtain Bank manager Sara Crow said new data on its service, which upcycles old curtains and gives them to people in need, showed 50% of its clients owned their own home.

“It actually shows that home owners are struggling just as much.

“There is a massive problem with people who earn incomes who sit outside the community services card bracket but struggle seriously financially,” she said.

The organisation offers free curtains to community services card holders, gold card holders and students.

It lines the curtains for the bedrooms of all children, all curtains in the home of a sick adult, as well as the curtains for the room which had the main heat source in a household.

“That is purely because being cold affects health issues so badly.”

Over half its clients had serious health issues, mostly heart problems and asthma, she said.

About two years ago the bank introduced a new social enterprise model in an attempt to address the wider community’s need to warm their home without breaking the bank.

The team started a curtain-making service, an initiative which would also be available to people who did not hold a community services card.

It would cost $90 an hour to have them made and a detachable lining would cost $15.

A machinist could make a 2m by 2m pair of curtains in under two hours, which would be better quality and more effective at trapping heat than curtains of a similar price from a “cheap shop”, Ms Crow said.

“If you have a double income and you have five children but you are earning minimum wage, you are not going to be able to go anywhere to buy cost-effective curtains that have a double layer.”

People often tried to avoid paying for curtains to save money, but a house could lose between 15% and 31% of its heat through the windows, she said.

and with limited machinists, the curtain bank struggled to get the service off the ground.

But thanks to a recent contribution from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), which is funding a training initiative to train youth machinists, the initiative had started to gain traction.

“The MSD funding started in March and it is a big help with machinist hours to help drive the curtain bank towards the much-needed social enterprise model that could stop our struggling of being underfunded,” Ms Crow said.

She was eager for the service to finally take off at a critical time of the year, as volunteers did most of their work over the winter months.

“When it gets cold people panic,” she said.

The Dunedin Curtain Bank has run for about seven years and receives donations of about 1000 curtains a year.

Over the course of seven years, the service has given away about 3000 curtains and prevented “tonnes” from entering landfill.