A Family Shelter Makeover
If you only sometimes read the blog I beg you to read this post (and watch the video at the end). Please.
Think of the children. I’m not being flippant. To prove it – here are children:
That’s my family 34 years ago (I was the baby). That was before Ken and Katy were born, before we grew to be this family:
I think if you look closely, you can see one eyebrow between the 7 of us (way to go, mom!).
Here we all are – the whole family. Wait, no, that is still ‘BK’ – what we likes to call ‘Before Katy’ – when we had all the real fun. Like when we went on the 6 week tour around the US in that motor home in 1985:
Charlie Henderson was apparently there – in my dad’s arms. That’s my little brother, but isn’t that INSANE?
Here we all are now, minus 4 new grandkids (soon to be 5):
But let’s go back into the past:
Despite the fact that my parents were both teachers and they already had 6 kids, we grew up often having foster siblings. I don’t know if it was necessarily through the foster program or if it was through my church. It was never like 5 extra kids, normally just a pair of siblings: A brother/sister duo when I was really little, 2 sisters when I was a bit older and a couple teenage boys when I was 10. My parents are the kind of people who see a need and fills it. And when there were kids that needed a better environment, my parents would take them in. I always wondered if it were somehow easier once you have so many kids – like what is 2 more? And I’ve never really asked my parents about it – whether it was a hard decision or if it was just second nature or both. Regardless, now I realize how amazing it was of them to do that, and how much it affected both the kids and our lives. Seeing that kind of charity and service in such an everyday comfortable way was a total gift to us, really. It’s like every day we learned how to help others on a very base level. Sure, there were times when I was like ‘really? more people???’ but now, looking back I realize just how valuable it really was to everyone involved. It’s hard to know what values will stick with you, right? I certainly don’t live my life just constantly serving others like my parents always have, but I know that as I get more and more into my 30’s, there is a compulsion to do so. This is probably based on how I was raised.
Last year was the time when I could financially think about volunteering my time with foster kids, and right now, the best most realistic way for me to help is to design a home. But for whom?
I sought out working with foster kids in some way but I couldn’t really find the right situation. I was talking to my nanny about it because she does a lot of foster care volunteering and she mentioned this family shelter that was in trouble. The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission, a family homeless shelter, burned down to the ground and as you can probably suspect the rebuild didn’t have a huge budget for a design team.
No one got hurt, but a lot of personal items were lost. The neighboring palette company caught on fire in the middle of the night and it jumped over. They are rebuilding the shelter to be a bigger, better shelter
For those of us that were raised in a stable home, the idea of homelessness is sad and heartbreaking when we see it, but it’s an abstract concept – something that we can’t really relate to and are rarely really forced to confront. Furthermore, what we see even less are the thousands of families, with children, who are living in their car or in tents on the street because they’ve lost their jobs, then their homes and had no real recourse. Life is expensive in LA, there is a serious lack of affordable housing, so often the street or car becomes the only option.
In case you aren’t really hearing the situation, it is this: Most of these kids (and their parents) sleep in cars in fast food parking lots, then go to school just to come back to their car at 3pm – at Jack in the Box. Not to totally emotionally manipulate you, but think about having to raise your newborn or your 3-year-old in your car and think about how confusing and uncomfortable (to say the least) it probably is for everyone involved.
The level of resilience and toughness of these kids and parents would shock you.
But there is a hope:
The San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission helps families by taking them in, giving them a dignified space to get back on their feet, and mentoring/training them to be successful on their own. Once your situation is that dire, it might feel impossible to get out of it. The right kind of educational and personal help is intensely valuable to get people out of homelessness and into their own homes.
So, their new building is being built. It’s a former school that was foreclosed upon in the valley and they bought it with the intent to have a bigger, better, safer home with more facilities to help the families grow strength and dignity before they move into their own homes. In short: it’s going to be awesome.
The team at the mission is pretty amazing, led by Wade who is full of vision and generosity, with smart solutions to very nuanced and ugly problems. They dedicate their lives to making other lives better. That is some seriously good people, right there. In case there is any doubt about motives here – it’s a non-profit that is not government-funded and only funded by donations. I am not getting paid but I’m volunteering my teams time (meaning that they are getting paid).
My goal is to design the large 16, 000 square feet home so it feels like one big, giant, warm hug. Plus it will be a really pretty, stylish, and cohesive hug full of comfortable furniture and tasteful finishes. It will feel like a home that will inspire them to rebuild their life, full of the tools and people who dedicate their lives to supporting that.
Here are the hard and fast facts about the project:
– It is a 16, 000 square foot home which is basically the size of 8 average houses. It includes 11 family rooms, 2 common living areas, a communal dining room, a computer lab (for kids homework and parents jobs search), a community garden, outdoor play area for the kids and a new mom room – for the new single mom. Plus some offices for the management, laundry areas, and 6 bathrooms. We need 40 twin bunk beds, sofas, dining tables and chairs, rugs, lamps, side tables, and of course bedding.
– We need help through donations from you – or ANYONE. If you are a large company that can afford to donate furniture, textiles, accessories, WONDERFUL. We would be soooo grateful and obviously you’ll get lots of love on the blog and social media.
– If you have any services (assistant, painting, landscaping, unpacking boxes, messengering, just general helping out, etc) and you would like to donate those services, awesome. Again, I’ll give you love. The construction is underway and the building is being fully built thanks to KB Home, The Pacific Companies, The Perlman Family, Westfield Shopping Centers, Walt Disney Co., and TempurSealy.
– Families move in in July – that is right around the corner, folks.
Watch this video to see the space and learn more about the project:
– If you don’t live in LA (or if you do) and want to help, then you are in luck because we’ve created an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for the shelter. We set the IndieGOGO for $35k, but we need like $200K. I haven’t done this before and didn’t want to be the chump that put up a $200K campaign up and only got $20K. Instead we want to be that campaign that goes for 35K and gets $350K. YEA. Let’s do that.
To thank you:
– If you spend more than $20, then we will write your name on the wall in the space – and a personal thank you on the blog. In my mind we will create an awesome wallpaper with everybody’s names that donated and we’d paper the corridor or the stairway (if we can get a wallpaper manufacture to donate – we aren’t using the funds for that). And PS, only 1500 of you need to spend that for us to reach our goal)
– If you spend more than $500 then I will give you a free 1/2 hour phone consultation where we go over any rooms in your house that you want, based on your photos with any recommendations I have for you. Ask me anything – I’m yours for 1/2 hour.
I know that you are all bombarded by crowdfunding often, and most of you probably give back already in many ways. But if you have anything extra you can spare, we would so gratefully appreciate it. If you read this blog you are someone who probably who knows how important your ‘home’ is to you. We are all emotionally connected to the space directly surrounding us and it affects the rest of our day. The design of your home is not the key to your success, but when you feel comfortable and safe it frees up emotional and mental space to accomplish other, more important things – like searching for jobs, raising kids and finding a permanent home of your own for your family.
Because no child should ever have to sleep on the street or in a car. Ever.
Please head over to the Indiegogo campaign. Check it out, think about it and donate if you can. Thank you so much in advance, from me, Wade Trimmer and his wonderful team, and most importantly all the families and children who are about to have a safe bed to sleep in.
All donation info HERE and obviously the more you spread the word the closer we get to our goal. Thank you so much.
See the first update post here, a last little nudge to our indiegogo campaign here, an art roundup of our favorite work from the artists that have donated here, and a big thank you to those who donated here.