Stateside: Homeless shelters get a makeover

Jan 10, 2013

Imagine what you might know about physical space and tranquility if you lived in a drug house, an abandoned building, or jail.

That’s the experience for many of the women who stay at the Women and Family Treatment and Shelter at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. They often come from intense circumstances to the shelter, in order to make big changes in their lives.

The shelter is housed in a former convent. On the third floor everything reeks of fresh paint. A professional paint company has donated the paint and man power to paint the walls. The long hallway is now sky-blue and the twenty rooms where the women live now have fresh coats of cotton-candy pink and lemon-yellow paint.

Terry Grahl runs the non-profit Enchanted Makeovers and she’s making this large-scale renovation happen by coordinating a symphony of volunteers and businesses. She got a church in Taylor to making curtains for all the rooms. An artist from Georgia is coming in to paint murals on the walls and the shelter is also getting new ceiling fans and new floors.

Carol Buford is a resident of a pink room.  She loves watching the transformation happen, and says she feels better because the place is brighter and cleaner. She says when she sees all the people who have volunteered with the makeover she realizes a lot of people care.

“For me, that’s a great thing because I’ve always felt like I was alone. Now I feel like I’m not. Now I feel like I’m a part of something.”

A shelter room prior to makeover.
A shelter room prior to makeover.

The volunteers have transformed this space into something beautiful. On January 19th Enchanted Makeovers will hold its “big reveal” for the makeover. The residents say they feel safe, comforted, and more at ease with the physical changes to the space.

Designer Terry Grahl did not set out to create a non-profit. Eight years ago someone at a shelter asked her to volunteer some time and paint a wall. When she checked out the dorm room where the women lived, she was overwhelmed. The women slept on bunk beds from a prison. They had used bed spreads from a nursing home.

The bounties of an Enchanted Makeover.
The bounties of an Enchanted Makeover.

Grahl decided to meet with some of the residents to find out what they wanted in their living space. “When you sit with women for hours and have to look into people’s eyes, how can it not go back to looking at your own life? I went back to my childhood, which is something I didn’t want to think about.”

She says her family didn’t have any money, used food stamps, and moved constantly to find the cheapest rent. Grahl’s family eventually moved into a dilapidated house the church gave them, with weeds and tires in the front yard. She remembers her mom painted the walls, fixed the house, and made clothes and curtains on her sewing machine.

"I think that by restoring our house she was restoring herself. I felt that growing up and it represented hope."-Grahl

In the eight years she’s been doing this, Grahl has roped-in countless volunteers and gotten businesses to donate hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in products and services.  (Everyone at Enchanted Makeovers is a volunteer, including Grahl who runs the non-profit during the day. To earn a living, she cleans toilets at night).

Ultimately Grahl says what she does is not about interior design, but about using creativity to help people in tough situations rediscover a sense of self-worth.  

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