Turning houses into homes: Humble Design’s fundraiser to help furnish homes for those in need

Housing is key in breaking the cycle of poverty. That’s why Humble Design furnishes forever homes for families and veterans emerging from homelessness. Since 2009, the nonprofit organization has renovated almost 2,500 homes across the country.

Originating in Detroit, they extended their mission to Northeast Ohio two years ago.
The nonprofit has chapters in Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, and San Diego. After learning that 35% of Cleveland’s population lives under the poverty line, Progressive Insurance became a supporting sponsor of Humble Design Cleveland (HDC) in February 2020.

The insurance agency introduced the perfect person to lead the Cleveland chapter, too: Former Progressive employee of 20 years and former organizational coach Debbie Eastburn.

HDC relies heavily on in-kind donations to furnish homes and get families on their feet. The organization gets most of their furniture and home goods from  department store returns and local donors, and then helps organizations like Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) furnish homes as part of its Breaking New Ground project.

Humble Design is hosting its sold out fundraising event, Welcome Home Cleveland, this Thursday, Sept. 29. Attendees will be treated to food, drink and a live performance by Dan Mills and Jenny V of Robbing Mary. Guests can tour the warehouse, meet the HDC board and custom design team, and participate in activities that will help decorate a future home.

Considering HDC began merely weeks before the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Eastburn had quite the task ahead of her. She didn’t have a team or a place to store donations until five months after HDC was established.

“I didn’t have a warehouse, furniture or volunteers to work with,” she says. “We really had to pivot during the pandemic.”

Due to social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols, HDC didn’t serve their first family until September 2020. While the organization had a slow start, the staff have gained momentum over the past two years.

In 2021, HDC worked with more than 64 families, has already furnished 70 homes this year and designed 20 rooms in a transitional seasonal homeless shelter for one of their partner agencies.

While she’s thrilled about the headway HDC has made so far, Eastburnsays she loves seeing the impact she makes on the families she works with.

“We take the time to learn about each family and find out what they really like,” she says. “Putting everything together is the most rewarding part of it all.”

Each home renovation can be broken up into three distinct parts, and typically lasts about three days. 

First, HDC staff members meet with a family to learn about their story, and their likes and dislikes. Then, they scour the HDC warehouse to find the right decorations for the home. This means choosing artwork, furniture, and other decorations for each room. 

If children live in the house, the staff asks about their favorite hobbies and TV shows to customize the kids’ bedrooms. They also stock the bookshelves with age-appropriate books. 

“Deco Day,” is the final day of the renovation process when the home is furnished. It typically takes a few hours to decorate, so the family keeps themselves occupied and out of the house while the workers put the finishing touches on the home.

At the end of the day, the family returns to a beautiful, fully furnished house to call home.

“We enjoy every part of the process,” says Eastburn. “But seeing the family’s reaction on ‘Deco Day’ is truly priceless.”

Follow HDC on Facebook and Instagram, where Eastburn posts Deco Day reveal photos and donation wish lists every week. Note that regular donations are on hold through October because of Welcome Home Cleveland.

Dana Shugrue
Dana Shugrue

About the Author: Dana Shugrue

Dana Shugrue is a graduate of John Carroll University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media and Professional Writing. She is a full-time Content Specialist at Budget Dumpster, and part-time freelance writer for FreshWater Cleveland. When she’s not writing, you can catch Dana taking a run through the metros or sipping a latte at her favorite local coffee shop.