Humble Design is a nonprofit brand that brings relief, dignity and hope to individuals and families who are transitioning out of homelessness in Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego and Cleveland. But neither relief nor dignity nor hope is tangible, easily transported or even generalizable.
So what is it that Humble Design does?
The organization makes “housing”—you know, that collection of connected rectangles with at least one door, bathroom and kitchen—into a home.
Humble Design provides interior design services and all the furnishings (think beds and bedding, matching plates and spoons, artwork and fuzzy towels). They also receive, catalog, organize and warehouse donated furniture and home goods, but that’s in service to the bigger, better, longer-lasting goal: turning housing into homes … empty rooms into havens of rest and recovery.
Sleeping on the floor isn’t sustainable.
While up to 50% of individuals and families return to homelessness within a year of securing housing, only 1% of Humble Design clients do. The difference (and yes, it’s as big as the numbers portray), according to Treger Strasberg, founder and CEO of the nonprofit brand, is a change in mindset.
- A house becomes a home once everyone who lives in it has a bed.
- A house becomes a home when it has a purposeful space for gathering with family and friends.
- A house becomes a home with personalization, such as framing the kids’ artwork.
- A house becomes a home with signs of permanence, such as hanging the kids’ artwork on the walls.
Treger fell forward into starting and running Humble Design when, after she helped a friend in Detroit furnish her new family home following a period of homelessness, she had leftover donated items and nowhere to take them for the next person in need. She learned that there simply wasn’t a system in place—no organization to receive goods—and, also unfortunately, little recognition of the need or opportunity.
So this graphic design–trained, former advertising professional leaned into her network, turning to business leaders in Detroit to ask for assistance with setup. Before long, she had secured donated warehouse space and a truck, and she had started to attract groups of volunteers who wanted to help.
The Ford family, one of Treger’s initial contacts in Detroit, connected her with U-Haul, which for many years has been and still is the dedicated truck provider for Humble Design in all cities. After Detroit came …
- Chicago, with the help of CB2;
- Seattle, with the help of Microsoft;
- San Diego, with the help of a TV production company; and then
- Cleveland, where Progressive is Humble Design’s city sponsor.
Through Humble Design’s day-of-service model, groups of volunteers from these and other organizations do the installations alongside the nonprofit brand’s team. Starting at 10 a.m., a team of about 10 volunteers cleans, furnishes and decorates a family’s new residence before the clients return home at 2 p.m.
As of 2022, the nonprofit brand is completing 11–13 home installments each week. Tracking back to the beginning, Humble Design counts its progress this way:
- 2,500+ homes designed
- 8,000+ lives transformed
- 4,775+ children no longer sleeping on the floor
- 8,200,000+ pounds of donated furniture reused with purpose
- 21,950+ hours with volunteers working together to end homelessness
No surprise: Humble Design intends to grow its impact. “If we were to do 40 installments a week in each city, we could be a real systemic change in the homeless sector,” said Treger. “So many people in this country are sleeping on the floor and living in undignified environments. I would love to be the bridge out of that situation in every city.”
We applaud the work that Humble Design is doing in some of our country’s biggest cities. Learn more about how you can help, and how your team can support the mission in Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego or Cleveland.