LOS ANGELES – Blanca Ramirez understands the value of fresh sheets, a warm bed and a safe place to call home.
They’re simple things that are often taken for granted, but for Ramirez, they changed life.
What you need to know
- Buy Nothing groups are online forums where people can exchange articles for free
- The Buy Nothing Project has been monitoring most of the Buy Nothing group sites since the pandemic began, with over 2 million people joining the Buy Nothing groups
- Items are always given away for free without trading, exchanging or buying
- That year, a Buy Nothing group stepped forward in Studio City to set up a women’s shelter, the Los Angeles House of Ruth
Ramirez arrived at the Los Angeles House of Ruth, a domestic violence shelter with her three children, 25 years ago after leaving an abusive environment.
In addition to the daily needs for the family, she received support, social benefits, therapy, child care in the animal shelter and a way to become self-employed.
“It was stable, there was structure,” said Ramirez.
Today she works full time as a caretaker for the shelter, helping new residents find that same sense of stability.
“I pray that new people who arrive will feel the way I felt welcome, loved, safe, and secure,” she said.
Established over 40 years ago, the Los Angeles House of Ruth serves women across the city affected by homelessness and domestic violence. They operate accommodations in various areas of LA, and on a Tuesday afternoon, Ramirez was preparing to welcome a new family to a recently renovated home that will soon be home to eight to ten families.
The shelter provides the residents with everything they could need, such as towels, clothes, toiletries, dishes, baby bottles and diapers.
Ramirez explained that many arrive with a few items of clothing and little else because they had to leave dangerous situations without packing.
Although Ruth’s Los Angeles home has dedicated long-term donors, they always run out of supplies. That year, however, housewares, bedding, and other merchandise came from an unexpected source: Buy Nothing groups.
Founded by Liesl B. Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller in Washington State, Buy Nothing Project began as a few Facebook groups that gave neighbors the opportunity to post items they wanted to give away – anything from an extra loaf of bread to a refrigerator .
The project is intended as a step towards a mutual circular economy and has gained prominence around the world.
Buy Nothing groups have 4.27 million members. The guidelines are simple: everything is offered for free, there is no exchange or trade. Groups tend to be private, closed to people who live in the neighborhood.
Their popularity skyrocketed during the pandemic as people hunger for community and connection. Over two million people joined the Buy Nothing Groups during COVID.
Jane Covner was one of them.
“I’ve heard it’s a great website for finding wonderful things that people don’t need,” said Covner, who joined the Buy Nothing group in Studio City.
Covner is on the board of directors of The Los Angeles House of Ruth and her intention was to help set up the new shelter. She called and asked for essentials like diapers and was happy to be inundated with “chairs, tables, lamps and works of art”. When I explained who it was for and why it was needed, people just opened their hearts, doors and cars and brought things into the house. “
Instead of a few pots and pans, Covner was able to furnish the entire house through the Buy Nothing group. It created a community in their neighborhood where people banded together to support women they would never meet.
For some, it was deeply personal to donate directly to the shelter.
“A lot of people have donated goods to my house. When they met me, they took me aside and said they had been a victim of domestic violence, ”Covner said.
While animal shelters often rely on donations, Cover explains that Buy Nothing is different because the website allows her to ask about specific items she’s looking for, such as rubber ducks, children’s books, and socks. Because so little money was spent on the interior of the new house, funds were also released.
“It gives us extra money to go the extra mile for our customers. If they need extra therapy, we have the money to give them what they need instead of spending that money on a chair or dishwasher, ”she said.
When Cover began moving items to the new home in the past few months, Ramirez and other managers at the shelter were stunned by the donations.
“People are used to paper plates and plastic when they come here,” said Ramirez. “Some people don’t know how to use a coffee maker or a normal toaster, it makes them feel better.”
She pondered her own path and the emotional distance she has traveled since arriving at the shelter.
“Do you know how to say this chain, this chain of domestic violence continues? Mine broke when I came here. “