Restoring Faith by Design

Local Nonprofit Helps Seattle Families Find Their Way Home

Article by Lisa Schreiner

Photography by Emma Morem Photography

Originally published in Bellevue Lifestyle

Imagine a family moving into their first home from a shelter and the home has no furniture—children sitting, sleeping and eating on the floor. Now, imagine an organization that helps create stability for these recently homeless families by furnishing and decorating the empty home. An organization that helps restore dignity to people who have been homeless and creates a warm and welcoming home for them. That organization is Humble Design.

Founded in Detroit in 2009 by Treger Strasberg, Humble Design now offers its services in four locations around the country, including Seattle. Treger did not set out to start a nonprofit. She was working in the corporate world in marketing when she realized a co-worker was struggling with transitioning out of homelessness. She began to collect items for her co-worker’s home and continued to collect items for other recently homeless families, and Humble Design was born.

Shortly after, U-Haul took notice of Humble Design and played an instrumental role in expanding the nonprofit, including providing a wrapped tumble truck for each warehouse. To date, Humble Design provides personalized furnishings for the homes of families in Detroit, Chicago, San Diego and Seattle.

The Seattle office, launched in 2018, is located near West Seattle and is run by Operations Manager Tia Baker. Tia made the leap from the corporate world in the legal field to Humble Design and was the first hire for the Seattle location. A Seattle native, she saw firsthand how bad the homelessness problem was becoming and wished she could do something about it. When Treger, a family friend, mentioned she was opening a Seattle warehouse, it was the perfect opportunity for Tia to jump on board and be able to serve her community.

Humble Design Seattle served 11 families in 2018, averaging two families per month. The goal for 2019 is to serve one family per week. They have partnered with Mary’s Place to identify people and families who are transitioning out of shelters into permanent housing. From there, they send an interior designer out to meet with the family in order to determine their needs, style and likes. The designers then return to the warehouse to curate household items and furniture based on the meeting with the family.

On Fridays, known as “deco days,” volunteers arrive at the warehouse for a brief orientation and then load up all the items into the truck. They caravan to the home, unload the truck and decorate the home within three hours. The family returns to the house, and the volunteer team hosts a big reveal of the home for them. No detail is forgotten when it comes to decorating the home. Some of the sweet final touches include setting the dining table with proper place settings and utensils and putting kids’ names above their beds so they feel the sense of security of having their own bed.

One of the most important pieces for Tia is making sure each home is personalized so that the family truly feels like it is their home when they walk in. Of the 11 homes that have been furnished by her team, she has seen many of the homes start without any furniture at all—families sleeping and sitting on floors, without a table to eat on or a desk for children to work on their homework.

Humble Design is there to help the family have a jump-start to begin again and take any unnecessary burden away so they can focus on rebuilding and beginning a new life. They think of everything, right down to stocking toiletries and paper products in the bathrooms and kitchens of the homes they transform. The impact is so significant that less than 1 percent of the families served by Humble Design go back to homelessness.

“Getting to see the look on the faces of the families we serve—it’s as though their faith in humanity has been restored and they are so grateful—it makes everything we do so worth it and rewarding.” –Tia Baker, operations manager, Humble Designs Seattle

How can you help?

Humble Design Seattle is always looking for volunteers. With only seven employees and four of those part-time, volunteers hold the operation together. You can go to the website, HumbleDesign, and sign up to volunteer for a “deco day” as an individual, or companies can volunteer as a team with a “sponsored deco day.” They are also always looking for volunteers to help keep the warehouse organized throughout the week.

You can donate home goods and furniture as well by dropping off items at the warehouse Monday through Friday, or by purchasing items online through Humble Design’s Amazon Wish List. Items don’t need to be brand-new; as long as they are in good condition, they are welcome donations.

Top Items Needed:

  • Fresh, clean bedding sets
  • Toiletries
  • School supplies
  • Books
  • Small decor items

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