UPDATE September 10, 2013: Humble Design is now helping five families a week. It’s become Treger’s passion and she’ll be sharing news about it on this weekend’s The Women’s Eye Radio Show on 1480KPHX.com at 2PM PDT.
UPDATE July 25, 2013: From Treger: We are currently furnishing 39 brand new units for chronically homeless on the east side of Detroit. Our company has grow leaps and bounds and we are now in Austin, Texas as well!
By Stacey Gualandi/May 30, 2012
I am a Michigander, born and raised in Detroit. So when I heard about Treger Strasberg and what she is doing to help so many who are struggling during the Motor City’s economic woes, I had to reach out and share her story.
“…we cannot fail if we help one family and change the destiny of one child or one mother.” Treger Strasberg
In 2009, this wife and mother co-founded the non-profit Humble Design. The company was born out of her desire to help mothers and children coming out of homeless and abuse shelters rebuild their lives. Humble Design takes gently-used donated home goods and furniture and repurposes them, helping to “furnish a family’s future.”
Treger’s unselfish act has now brought her to television. Beginning June 1st, Treger and her life-changing design company will be featured in “Motor City Rising,” a new original series on OVATION that “explores the lives of Detroit locals fighting to thrive in a city many have given up on.” She’ll also be appearing in upcoming episodes.
I had the opportunity to speak with Treger via Skype about being on TV, her mission, and working with families in need. (You can also hear her on an upcoming The Women’s Eye Radio Show.) Below you can also read more about how she is helping to give people a second chance in the city I once called home…
EYE: What drives you to do what you do for other people…often people you don’t even know? Did you or someone you know experience a difficult time?
TREGER: I believe that everyone is a diamond in the rough. Everyone deserves the chance to do great things with their lives. Some people need a push in the right direction, some people just need to feel faith in humanity again. I love when I get to see the dawn of recognition on our clients faces when they realize that we are going to really help them and that things are going to change.
The feeling is indescribable. I cry, they cry. We hug. We are bound together by their hardship. I always think of the proverb that when joy is shared, it doubles and when sorrow is shared, it divides in half. I began Humble Design helping someone that I worked with. She was my contemporary and I was very effected by the news that she was struggling as much as she was.
She hid it so well. She must have come to work each day with such a heavy weight on her shoulders. It makes me sad just thinking about it now. Helping an individual that I knew was a wonderful experience, but by the end of our process, I feel like I know all our clients.
EYE: If we didn’t have people like you, what would Detroit and our society become?
TREGER: There is no way to imagine a world without people like me because everyone is a person like me. We all care; we are all concerned. Most of us just don’t know what to do or where to start. It is very hard to bridge the gap between charity given and the people it is given to.
If we could all see the effect our charity has, it would be easy to solve larger issues, one family at a time. Detroit is a child that we all want to cuddle, and help, but we are afraid to begin lest we fail. But we cannot fail if we help one family and change the destiny of one child or one mother.
EYE: What are your future plans for Humble Design?
TREGER: This is a tricky question because we are experiencing growing pains right now as a company. My partner, Ana Smith, and I love the one-on-one relationships we have with the clients and the personal touches we are able to design the houses with.
Unfortunately, our waiting list grows and far too many people are sleeping on the floor. This makes us lose sleep at night. We can help more people if we up our intake, but we may not get to them all personally. We decided on a hybrid of both of these ideas.
We help a larger amount of clients but choose two or three a month to focus our design skills and attention on. As we grow and hire more staff, we hope to continue the personal connections we enjoy so much. We have had great success in hiring past clients as intake specialists. They can speak to the needs of our clients and create a bond that is based on shared experience.
EYE: Do you hope more people take your lead?
TREGER: Our dream is to have motivated people across the company franchise the business model and help people nationwide. There is so much need and so few resources for families leaving the shelters. This leads to a cycle of homelessness that is costly and demoralizing for our country.
Most of our clients stay in the houses they procure after leaving the shelter because they take pride in their home and want to work hard to stay there. The effect spreads through blocks and neighborhoods. By removing the obstacles facing previously homeless families we can increase their chances of breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness.
EYE: What is the biggest reward for you?
TREGER: I am addicted to the moment when the family sees the furniture for the first time. Sometimes they are home on a “move day” and sometimes they choose to be surprised. Either way, the effect is the same. For the mothers, I see relief. For the children, I see comfort and overwhelming joy.
Even though we try to supply a ton of toys for the kids, the best gift by far is their own beds. Most of our clients have been sleeping on the floor for years. Some children have NEVER had a bed to call their own. I have seen 11-year-old children burst into tears at the sight of their first bed and mothers slump in relief as they sit down on the edge of theirs.
EYE: What did you think about being on TV for OVATION’S “Motor City Rising?”
TREGER: It was more work than I imagined it would be and some days went on forever, but I am eternally grateful to Ovation network and Working Pictures for filming this for us. We have a record of what we do, and even though I cry in nearly every scene, I think this show will do amazing things for Detroit.
EYE: What have you learned about yourself? About the people you help??
TREGER: I have learned how to be humble every day and teach my kids the same. I will occasionally take them to see where their bed went, or where their teddy bear lives now. It is touching, and I feel very important in their development and in mine.
I am very grateful for the blessings I have in my life, and every day at Humble forces that into the front of my brain. The ideas I had about what a homeless person looks and acts like have been decimated by the last three years of Humble Design.
Everyone in this country has been touched by hard times, some more than others. But I never forget how close we all are to the edge and how we are all in need of kindness at one point in our lives.
EYE: Treger, I thank you. I hope your idea spreads like wildfire!!! Be sure to watch Treger on the premiere of “Motor City Rising,” Friday, June 1, at 10PM ET and 7PM PT on OVATION.
Lead photo of Treger Strasberg courtesy Working Pictures