Local homeless shelter awarded Ikea makeover

Claire Liu/Staff

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The McKinley Family Transitional House in Berkeley was awarded a comprehensive makeover this month after winning a contest run by IKEA.

The McKinley facility — which is operated by East Bay nonprofit group Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, or BOSS — provides up to two years of temporary housing for homeless families with children. The IKEA store in Emeryville will furnish the facility with approximately $10,000 of furniture and offer design expertise to renovate the aging building, according to BOSS individual and corporate giving manager Christine Lias.

“McKinley House is over 25 years old, and it desperately needed this funding,” Lias said. “The award will definitely be put to good use.”

The charitable organizations in contention for the award — called the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge — were nominated by IKEA staff, according to a press release. Steering committees at each IKEA store then selected a maximum of three candidates to be ranked by online voting. The organization with the highest number of votes received a “complete IKEA makeover,” while the other candidates earned IKEA gift cards.

“All of us here at BOSS were trying to get votes,” said Sonja Fitz, director of development at BOSS. “We posted on Facebook and told all our friends, and our efforts ended up paying off.”

IKEA introduced the Life Improvement Challenge in 2011, and according to the press release, the award has contributed more than $1 million to local charities. Last year, the Emeryville IKEA store refurbished the Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland.

According to Fitz, many of the McKinley House’s current fixtures are as old as the building itself.

“This award is extremely meaningful because it will make the McKinley House a better, more comfortable place to live,” Fitz said. “The families that live there will be able to take pride in their residence as they progress toward finding jobs and permanent homes.”

The McKinley House, which was BOSS’s first transitional house when it opened more than two decades ago, was initially funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is one of many local shelters currently run by BOSS that collectively serve more than 1,500 homeless people annually.

A design team from IKEA plans to meet with BOSS in the coming weeks to determine which features of the McKinley building require the most attention. Although the entire structure is in need of repair, Lias said, IKEA may focus on overhauling just one main room.

“Everyone here is just so excited to have received this award, from volunteers to program staff to funders,” Lias said. “We’re just ecstatic.”

Contact Logan Goldberg at [email protected].