Charity issue: A safe haven

House+of+Goods+helps+refugees+by+providing+them+with+basic+necessities%2C+financial+assistance+and+job+placement.

Morgan Hooker

House of Goods helps refugees by providing them with basic necessities, financial assistance and job placement.

Becoming a refugee is never a choice. It is a forced decision, made as a result of circumstances beyond one’s control. When a refugee flees their country, they aren’t just leaving their home – they are abandoning their possessions, their family members and their previous life. Once they arrive in an unfamiliar country, they are faced with the difficult task of building a new life. 

This is where House of Goods helps. An organization established in 2015 by the Islamic Foundation of Greater Saint Louis, they are devoted to helping refugees by providing them with basic necessities, financial assistance and job placement. House of Goods is open to people of all religions and races. According to Dzemal Bijedic, the task manager, refugees who come to House of Goods are from all over the world: Afghanistan, Kenya, Iraq, the Congo, Somalia, South America, Honduras and Mexico.

We helped around 52 refugee families just last month.”

— Dzemal Bijedic

“We helped around 52 refugee families just last month,” Bijedic said. “When refugees arrive, the International Institute will help them for only three months to pay their rent, utility bills, [take] English classes and try to find them jobs. After that, they are on their own. That is why so many of them come to us for help afterward.”

Bijedic came to America in 1997 in order to escape the Bosnian war. He said his experiences motivated him to devote his time and effort towards helping others.

“I came here as a refugee,” Bijedic said. “[Back then], there was no one to help us. There was no organization like House of Goods to help us get food and furniture, [so] we would have to look for furniture in the streets or alleyways.”

Bijedic is in charge of bringing donations to the warehouse and transporting them to the places that need them. Despite his busy schedule as a Metropolitan police officer, Bijedic said he plans on working at House of Goods for as long as he is able.

I’ll usually sleep only three hours a night. It’s quite difficult, but somehow I manage it.”

— Dzemal Bijedic

“It is a challenge to balance both jobs,” Bijedic said. “I’ll usually sleep only three hours a night. It’s quite difficult, but somehow I manage it.”

Bijedic has been working at House of Goods for six years, along with Lisa Grozdanic, the task manager for the Islamic Foundation social services division. Adil Imdad, chairman, founded House of Goods with support from the Islamic Foundation.

I wanted to help the underprivileged people of St. Louis, especially the refugees and immigrants.”

— Adil Imdad

“There were two things that inspired me to start House of Goods,” Imdad said. “The first was the example of Prophet Muhammad, who started House of Goods in his city of Medina 1500 years ago to help the poor and needy. The second reason was I wanted to help the underprivileged people of St. Louis, especially the refugees and immigrants.”

House of Goods also helps refugees find employment so they can provide for themselves and their families. Those struggling to make ends meet typically receive financial assistance from the organization, which provides them with rental assistance and help paying utility bills.

“Many times, refugees aren’t able to find a job,” Bijedic said. “And those who [do] still aren’t able to make enough money, so we try to find them better jobs if possible.”

In the beginning, House of Goods consisted of a tiny warehouse and a donation truck. Over the years, it has expanded so much that even the current, larger warehouse and three donation trucks do not provide enough room for the amount of donations they receive.

Five years down the road, I am hoping [to buy] another building because we are totally swamped.”

— Adil Imdad

“Our organization keeps on growing, and we will [probably] need a bigger warehouse to store all the goods so people can easily find what they need,” Imdad said. “Five years down the road, I am hoping [to buy] another building because we are totally swamped.

House of Goods has always been this way. When Grozdanic went there to pick up her son one day, she saw that it was overflowing with donations.

“My son is the reason I work here,” Grozdanic said. “He was helping Dzemal at House of Goods. When I went to pick him up, I saw that the donations were all the way up to the ceiling, so I stayed there, [helping out] until 4 a.m. in the morning. I kept coming back, and I’ve been working there ever since.”

Due to COVID-19, many organizations were forced to shut down and were unable to provide necessary assistance to refugees. However, the employees at House of Goods put on their masks, gloves and didn’t stop their efforts.

When COVID-19 happened, we didn’t close our doors for a single day.”

— Lisa Grozdanic

“When COVID-19 happened, we didn’t close our doors for a single day,” Grozdanic said. “We would make sure people were following the guidelines when they came to the warehouse, and we also delivered food boxes to refugees’ homes.”

House of Goods’ supplies and services are completely free. The money and items are donated by people in the community.

“House of Goods is the only facility in the entire state of Missouri that donates everything at no charge whatsoever,” Imdad said. “There are stores like Goodwill which sell donated items at reduced prices, but we give them for free.”

Their services extend beyond providing people with household items and financial assistance. House of Goods also drops off large pieces of furniture such as dining tables, beds and sofas to people’s homes.

A needy person does not have a truck, transportation, or the [means] to rent one.”

— Adil Imdad

“A needy person does not have a truck, transportation, or the [means] to rent one,” Imdad said. “That is why we created a system where people could have goods delivered to their homes. [This way], those who are unable to [transport] their furniture by themselves can [have] it delivered to them.”

House of Goods is open every day except Fridays and is located at 5911 Southwest Ave, St. Louis, MO 63139. Their goal is to alleviate the suffering of those in need, one item at a time. Their employees and volunteers are driven by their compassion to help others.

“I will keep working here for as long as I can,” said Bijedic. “As long as I am able to carry furniture and move couches, I will keep on working.”