A secret weapon in fighting homelessness? Interior designers. Really.
Humble Designs is about so much more than good aesthetics.
When Temia McGuire lost her job, she also ended up losing her home.
As difficult as it was personally for the Michigan mom, she didn't focus on herself. Her main priority was her children.
"I think I was just worried about the kids, how they felt," she says.
McGuire is from Detroit, a Rust Belt city wrestling with stubbornly high rates of poverty and unemployment. Last year, a report identified more than 2,700 people as homeless, living either on the streets or in shelters.
McGuire's story isn't all that rare in the Motor City.
One of the biggest challenges facing families transitioning out of shelters and into homes of their own is the cost of furnishing them.
That's where Humble Design, a Detroit-based nonprofit that uses donated home furnishings to create warm environments and a sense of normalcy for families in those situations, comes in.
Because, as it turns out, when you're homeless, a sofa can be so much more than just a sofa.
“The reality is, when we walk into these homes, they are empty," Treger Strasberg, the group's founder, explained in a video by Ford. "No beds, no sofas, nowhere to eat, nothing.”
Strasberg works with her clients to get a good sense of what they want and need out of a home, and she takes it from there.
When McGuire finally got back on her feet, Humble Design was there to make sure her new house felt like a home.
The personal touches Humble Design provided made a world of difference to McGuire and her kids.
“Home is where the heart is," she told Upworthy. "And this is definitely a home now. It’s not just a house.”
Humble Design always provides these families something very special that many of us take for granted: beds.
"The first thing that [kids helped by Humble Design] do in the middle of the afternoon is get into their bed — every single time," Strasberg said. "These children, the most important thing to them, is getting into their bed. Think about that when you get into your bed tonight."
Colorful decor and kitchen aesthetics might not seem that vital in helping the homeless get back on the right track. But they are.
The proof is in the pudding. A mere 1% of the families that have received help from Humble Designs fall back into homelessness within a year, according to Strasberg. That's compared to 50% for families that don't receive help.
“It’s not just furniture," Strasberg explained. "It’s love, it’s pride, it’s dignity. And those things need to be restored for these families.”
Humble Design's reach has expanded dramatically. When the group formed in 2009, it was helping about one household every six weeks. Today, it helps about three homes a week, and so far has helped more than 600 families transition back into normalcy after living in shelters.
To Strasberg, Humble Design isn't just about throw pillows and paint swatches — it's about laying the groundwork for families to succeed.
"These are people who are struggling and they really just need a little bit of help," she said. "What we do is make sure they have a strong, secure base from which to build on. And that includes a safe, warm, and comfortable home.”
“Detroit is made up of all these little families that make the city what it is, and make it great. And we’re helping those little families one at a time.”