Leiha Keys and her 1-year-old son Mehkia love hanging out in the playroom at the Rescue Mission in Saginaw, but it hasn’t always been so easy for Leiha to smile.
At 15, she began shuffling between the streets and shelters.
A "home" was just a dream until a few weeks ago when she found out she wouldn’t just be moving into a house, but also one that’s furnished.
The day before Leiha moved in, she was overcome with emotion thinking about what her new reality would be like. She could begin to let go of the worry about where they’d sleep or eat and settle in to her very own home.
“I’ve wanted this for a long time now, even before I had my son,” Leiha said. “This is all I wanted.”
This huge next step is all thanks to the Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan’s new program Impact Designs.
Impact Designs was inspired by an organization in Pontiac called Humble Design. Humble Design found, if you turn an empty house into a home and fill it with things like picture frames, pillows and household essentials, then people are far less likely to ever return to a shelter.
“Nationwide, about 50 percent of families who leave a homeless shelter will go back within 12 months,” Humble Design Founder and CEO Treger Strasberg said. “Of Humble Design’s families, only 1 percent go back.”
Impact Designs’ mission is powered by volunteers and fueled by faith.
Piece by donated piece and screw by screw, they put together Leiha and Mehkia's new apartment.
While Impact Designs focuses on the furnishings, other organizations - like the Saginaw County Youth Protection Council - are offering a helping hand with rent.
“When we can wrap a community around them and really support them, they have the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Saginaw County Youth Protection Council CEO Mary Ellen Johnson said.
Impact Designs hopes to eventually help every family transition out of a shelter and into a fully furnished home.
“It’s got big goals, but it’s also got a big impact. So that’s what we’re striving for," Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan’s CEO Dan Streeter said.
And on her move-in day, the Impact Designs team got to see that impact in action.
“It’s so pretty,” Leiha said.
When she got to Mehkia’s room, it was hard for her to find the words, but her smile spoke volumes. He now has his own toom, his own crib and his own toys.
It’s a new place for Leiha and Mehkia to play, grow and call home.
The Saginaw County Youth Protection Council will be helping with Leiha’s rent for her first two years.
Leiha hopes to finish her GED by the end of this month and start a new job with FedEx.
To help more people like Leiha, Rescue Ministries of Mid-Michigan plans to build a 5,000 square-foot warehouse for Impact Design donations behind the shelter in Saginaw.
Rescue Ministries hopes to have it built by September, but it needs the community’s help to do so.
If you’d like to donate funds, click here.
If you’d like to donate furniture or decor, Impact Designs is doing a virtual warehouse until the real warehouse is built. You can send pictures of your pieces for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Impact Designs team will see if it can use your donations for a current family.