Local nonprofit strives to help needy Detroit families transform their houses into homes.
With no intention of starting a nonprofit, Treger Strasberg just couldn’t shy away from helping families in Detroit who are in need.
“I was working at Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit in Detroit whose mission is to relieve hunger in the Metro Detroit area, and I met a woman who was living under terrible conditions and had nothing,” said Strasberg of Birmingham, who attends Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township.
“As soon as I found out about her situation, I emailed my friends and neighbors and asked if they had anything they were willing to donate to her. Within six weeks, we refurnished her entire house.”
Strasberg was born in Ohio and raised in San Diego, where she lived and attended school up until her sophomore year of high school. She finished her high school career in Israel, and then moved to New York for college, where she earned a BFA in graphic design and advertising from School of Visual Arts in New York City. She moved to Detroit in 2008 with her husband and two children, now ages 6 and 7.
This past April, Strasberg won the Diversity Champion award in Birmingham. The award is given to members of the community who help bridge the gap between cultures and races in the city of Detroit.
After helping the woman in Detroit, Strasberg thought that was the end of it; however, she would pull up to her house and see a crib on her front porch or a mattress leaning against her garage.
“I started calling shelters and asked if they needed any of the donations I was receiving. They said an organization that furnishes homes doesn’t exist and suggested I start one. I wasn’t ready to start a nonprofit, but my friend Ana Smith and I decided to do it,” Strasberg added.
During the summer of 2009, Humble Design was born.
Humble Design is a nonprofit interior design company serving low-income families and single-parent households in Metro Detroit. It works with 13 homeless shelters in the Detroit tri-county area who refer families to them. After being referred, the families are instantly put on a list of homes to furnish.
Most of these families are fleeing domestic abuse. They take nothing with them except for what they can carry on their back (typically a trash bag full of clothes). Humble Design generally works in government-aided housing, where families can usually be found sleeping on the floor in the living room. Very few homes have beds or couches.
“It breaks our heart to see families sleeping on the floor,” Strasberg said. “A good night’s sleep is worth so much, which is why the first thing we do is provide beds.”
The next step is bringing the family to Humble Design’s warehouse in Troy, where they store all of the donations, to pick out couches, coffee tables and dressers. Next, volunteers and designers decorate the house with curtains, artwork, rugs, shelves and vases with flowers. They clean and put the family’s clothes away as well. The team works to create a fully functional home, including the little things, such as trash cans and silverware.
“Before I moved into the home that I am in now, I was living in a small apartment through a women and children’s transitional program with three of my kids,” said Kerita Reed of Detroit. “I’ve been at my current home for two years and had minimal furniture. Humble Design came to my home a couple months ago and refinished the entire place.
Humble Design works with three to five families a week and has about a 20-family waiting list. Around 250 families have been helped thus far. The organization has partnerships with Gorman’s Furniture, which donates floor samples; Two Men and a Truck, which donates moving services; I Love My Pillow, which donates all excess pillows, and many more.
“My favorite part is seeing the reveal,” Strasberg said. “When the families come home, I see the mothers sigh with relief and cry. I see kids playing with toys of their own and feeling secure.”
In February, Humble Design announced its first franchise partner located in Austin, Texas. Strasberg’s hope in the next five years is that her humble team is able to help everyone within the Detroit city limits and never have to turn anyone away.
If you are considering buying a mattress for your college-bound student, one for yourself, or just want to give a mattress to a needy family, join Humble Design in its “Buy a Bed Give a Bed” event July 20-21 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Humble Design warehouse, 1876 Thunderbird Road in Troy.
“This is a great opportunity for anyone who is in the market to purchase a mattress for college and for people to see the warehouse,” said Client Relations Manager Cheryl Stern of Huntington Woods. “We want to thank Eric Koretz, president of Michigan Discount Mattress, for supporting us with this event.”
“At Humble Design, we do more than furnish homes,” Strasberg said, “We refurnish hope.”
By Leslie Spector|JN Intern