Designers and charity team up to help furnish family’s home

By: Terry Oparka, | Troy Times | Published February 1, 2017

METRO DETROIT — Do you have furniture and other household items that you want to find a new home for? 

They could help local families out of homelessness. 

Claire and her fiancé, Lander, in their 60s, are caring for seven children, Claire’s five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The mother of the five grandchildren could not care for them, and the mother of the two great-grandchildren died. Humble Design withholds its clients’ last names to protect their privacy.

 Five children who were sleeping on the floor of their former lodgings will sleep in this bedroom.

Five children who were sleeping on the floor of their former lodgings will sleep in this bedroom.

Photo provided by Impact Interior Design Solutions

The children, even the youngest, 16 months old and 5 months old, were sleeping on air mattresses and bouncy seats on the floor with no furniture until Impact Interior Design Solutions and Humble Design stepped up.

Laura Van Almen, of Impact Interior Design Solutions, explained that the company, owned by Darla Rowely and based in Troy, works with real estate agents, builders, investors and homeowners to stage homes for sale. It stages homes in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Washtenaw counties. 

Humble Design, according to its website, “partners with local area homeless and abuse shelters to identify families that are emerging from shelters and into low-income housing. Many of these families are victims of abuse and have left behind all personal items upon escaping and entering an emergency shelter.”

Once a partnering agency makes a referral, Humble Design designers meet with the families to do a needs assessment and develop a client wish list. Then Humble Design designers place the furnishings, toys, accessories and housewares; do minor cleaning; and officially move the families into their new housing. 

The organization assists up to three families each week, and all referrals come from a partner organization. Humble Design works with Cass Community Social Services, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, Lighthouse of Oakland County, the Salvation Army, the Coalition on Temporary Shelter, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the South Oakland Shelter and Haven. 

Humble Design has a warehouse stocked with items — including bedding, beds, furniture, toys, accessories and various household items — donated by real estate agents and homeowners, said Julie Nagle, design director for Humble Design. 

To help Claire and Lander, the team from Impact worked with Humble Design staff to furnish a home on Beaconsfield in Detroit in three days’ time earlier this month. 

“They (Humble Design) secure the housing, but there’s nothing there,” Van Almen said. 

“On Monday (Jan. 16), our design team met with the Impact design team,” Nagle said. Together, they tagged furniture and accessories to outfit the home. 

“Games, books, toys and dishes. Everything you put into a home, we put into a home — cleaning supplies and paper products,” Nagle said. “We get to the house (with the Impact team) and divide and conquer, making beds, hanging pictures.” 

The teams did this Jan. 16 in about three hours. 

Lauren Hawkins, a designer with Humble Design, explained that Claire’s daughter dropped off her five children with Claire for a weekend visit and didn’t return for them because she was unable to provide for them. Then Claire’s granddaughter died suddenly, leaving her 16-month-old and 5-month-old children with no one to look after them. Claire and Lander also took them in. 

“They’re so well-mannered, loving to one another and very close,” Hawkins said of the children. 

Claire and Lander hold jobs in downtown Detroit. The oldest five children are in school. 

“We try to restore dignity to those who have been on hard times and give them something to work for,” Hawkins said. 

Claire wept as she spoke with C & G Newspapers from her family’s new home on Jan. 16. 

“I am speechless,” she said. “This is wonderful — more than I expected. It’s great the babies can have their own room.” 

Hawkins said the children went immediately to their rooms to jump on their beds. 

“I am overwhelmed,” Lander said. “The kids are running and jumping like it’s Christmas. It’s like a dream. We really appreciate the house and everyone who took the time to turn it into a home.” 

Humble Design, based in Pontiac, accepts donations and will pick up furniture items over $30 in Oakland County. For more information about Humble Design, visit humbledesign.org or call (248) 243-7144.