Denise, a mother of five, was approved for a housing voucher when she sought Breakthrough. After she secured a fitting family home on the South Side, Denise was challenged with finding resources for appliances and furniture as her family transitioned from homelessness. Breakthrough reached out to a like-minded nonprofit that unites furniture with families in need. 

Humble Design, founded in Detroit in 2009 to connect newly housed families and veterans with furniture and decor, met Denise for the first time as she was getting off the bus with her children on the day she moved into her new home. The HD team wasn’t accustomed to working with homes the size of Denise’s, but they welcomed the challenged and jumped to action when they realized how overwhelming it could be to furnish the space as a single mother.

HD Chicago Operations Director Kristin Drutchas said Denise’s family was one of the first they served in the city and one of their most memorable experiences.

Denise and her sons pose for a picture with Housing Coordinator Lauren Cole (left)

“I remember seeing Denise get off the bus with her sons in one arm and the few bags they had to move in with in the other. As excited as she was to finally move into her new home, she was just as anxious about how empty it was,” Drutchas said. “Our team conducted its first design meeting for her family that same day with some of our designers keeping the children entertained while we took care of the business. For us, what we do is so much more than giving people furniture. It’s helping restore dignity to people.”

Breakthrough Housing Coordinator Lauren Cole said she was first contacted by the Humble Design team as they were researching operation expansion to a second city. Cole said they saw Chicago had need for the service they’d want to bring and the type of partner agencies needed to make a difference among the city’s homeless population.

“When Humble Design reached out to me, they were still figuring out how to bring the work they started in Detroit to Chicago and if it was something community organizations would find as a resource,” Cole said. “Weeks later, when Denise came to my office with her situation, I knew that I had the perfect organization for her family’s needs.”

With input from Denise and her boys, the Humble Design team beautified the empty rooms of their new house with donated furniture and decor from local communities. The boys got sports and superhero themes throughout their rooms and the Humble team surprised Denise with a sewing nook after they found out she’s passionate about the craft.

Sewing nook Humble Design crafted for Denise

Her sons were also surprised with a toy room in the basement so they could play together in their own space. Breakthrough then helped Denise find quality of education in their new neighborhood through local partnerships. Breakthrough case managers used their connections to locate a school for Denise’s sons that was close and met her academic standards.

Denise said she was grateful for the kindness Breakthrough and the Humble Design team gave her family. “I have been in out of homeless most of my adult life,” Denise said. “[These organizations] came and made my house a home; it was beautiful from top to bottom.”


*Names in this story have been altered to protect the subject’s identity*


View the gallery below for pictures of Denise’s home transformation.