Humble Design Creates Homes of Hope

The non-profit creates comfortable spaces for those transitioning from homelessness

By Rob Smith

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December 7, 2020

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Kelley Moore’s Career is the very definition of full circle.

Moore began her professional life as a social worker for Child Protective Services. She then wrote a book about interior design, Cube Chic, which launched a national TV career. Moore appeared on several shows, including Ellen, Rachel Ray, Today, Steve Harvey and The View. Locally, she also had her own show on King-5 TV and authored a column for Seattle magazine for 10 years.

She has now returned to her roots at Humble Design Seattle, a non-profit organization based in in Detroit that employs four people here. Founded in 2009, it provides furniture and interior design services to families and veterans transitioning from homelessness. Moore is director of the Seattle office, which employs four, herself included.

While interior design probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of alleviating homelessness, Moore insists it’s a significant step toward regaining emotional stability. She recalls one client who was sleeping on the floor and using newspaper as a blanket.

“You see more and more people on the street getting priced out of our city, and I want to be part of the solution,” says 

Moore, who notes that the 2020 Point-in-Time Count found that almost 12,000 people in King County were experiencing homelessness on one night last January. Almost half had no shelter. “Your environment has a very big impact on your mental health. This is giving people who have really been in a dire situation a chance to have a fresh start.”

To identify clients, Humble Seattle receives referrals from social service providers it partners with, including Mary’s Place, homeless services provider New Bethlehem Day Center in Kirkland and Dignity for Divas, which provides support for homeless women in the Seattle area. It takes donations of new and “gently used” furniture and household goods at its warehouse in White Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Humble is specific about what it wants. Potential donors can find a link to an Amazon wish list on Humble’s website. Items needed include things such as a silverware tray organizer, decorative throw pillows, twin metal bunk beds and bath towels. It won’t accept items such as glass furniture, sleeper sofas, china cabinets or clothing, but it needs certain types of furniture, décor, and kitchen and bath items. Moore’s team is in constant communication with clients to ensure the design fits their needs.

Covid-19 has disrupted the organization, but Moore regards it as a chance to reinvent and innovate. Pre-Covid, Humble worked with about one client family per week and recently celebrated its 100th client in Seattle since its opening here in 2017. Now, instead of meeting families in person, designers use Zoom to outfit a home virtually. The organization created “Humble Home Kits,” or individual kits for different rooms such as bathrooms or bedrooms.

“With this virtual world, it’s expanded how we can reach people,” Moore says. “You can do anything virtually and reach more people. Our reach has been insane.”

Besides Seattle, Humble also operates in Detroit, Chicago, San Diego and Cleveland. Moore’s team works with four or five clients each month. Nationwide, the organization has designed more than 1,500 homes involving almost 5,000 people since its founding 11 years ago. Data prove the model works: Up to 50% of families return to homelessness within a year of securing housing, but fewer than 1% of Humble’s clients do.

 “One of the first videos I saw was of a child who hadn’t had a bed for a year. He was so excited that he sat on his bed for three hours after we set it up. He wouldn’t get off that bed,” Moore says. “The people we work with don’t have to think about where they’re going to get a bed or a table to have their family around. They can focus on caring for their family and getting on their feet. These families come in and, I mean, they’re blown away.”

For more information, visit Humbledesign.org.

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