18 May 2017

Demand grows for curtain banks as winter bites

From Nine To Noon, 9:38 am on 18 May 2017

Increased demand for curtains to keep the winter chill at bay means curtain banks around the country are running low on both fabric and cash.

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Photo: Curtain Bank

Poor housing stock, bad weather and the fact that many landlords are not motivated to upgrade their properties are being blamed for the recent up-tick in demand for curtain banks.

Curtain banks upcycle curtains from donated fabrics, and operate in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

But the Dunedin Curtain Bank has warned it might be forced to close its doors in four weeks as operational funds run out, while the Wellington group is predicting it is around 300 pairs of curtains short of meeting its demand this winter.

Mirander Struthers, Healthy Homes manager for the Wellington region, said the made-to-measure curtains they provided to low-income families made a "significant difference".

"You can lose 20 percent of your heat through the windows and if you have effective curtains you can reduce that heat loss by 60 percent. So it is the thermal performance of those curtains that will make a difference to the heat loss."

She said their services were needed because families across New Zealand were struggling with poor quality rental properties.

"Families can only do so much in these properties."

Dunedin Curtain Bank trust manager Tess Trotter said they had seen "unprecedented demand".

The trust received grant funding across the year, and there was a gap of two months before the next round of funding, she said.

The trust needed to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 each year through fundraising efforts, but it had been an early start to winter and the 15 volunteers had been too busy to fundraise.

"It's been a pretty miserable autumn, usually that's quite a pleasent season in Dunedin," Ms Trotter said.

"I think it's also increased public awareness of the service that we provide. The referral agencies that we work with have been doing a great job of letting people know about our service, and a huge number of people have started self-referring themselves as well."

She said the trust filled about 30 orders for curtains in the area in the first two weeks of this month, double the amount they did last year.

The trust needed more volunteers, more fabric donations and cash donations.

"We do have a high level of curtain donations, but we always need more, with good length and lining."

Ms Trotter said the bank had seen an increase in demand from elderly people struggling to pay power bills, as well as parents concerned about children with constant colds or asthma.

"What we are seeing more and more is people who are not only living in material poverty, but also very time poor because they are working really hard.

"We often have people who have young families, you might have one or both parents working, sometimes in part time casual employment, so in terms of saving up to do something like invest in new curtains, it isn't something that is possible for them."