Homes of Shelter

by Lisa Stewart 27 May 2011

Since early man sought protection in caves, humans have needed shelters to escape the elements. And as long as man has built shelters, these shelters/homes have been used to measure one’s wealth, self-esteem and pride. Today we use our modern day “shelters” filled with creature comforts and treasures not only to escape the elements, but to sooth our souls and renew our strength.

Last month I was out when I got a call from my daughter who was watching the news about the coming storm. Her voice was tense as she asked, “Mom, where are you?” She ordered me to seek shelter immediately because I was driving right toward a tornado. I reached safety just as the upheaval hit. 

Raleigh was hit by 12 super cell tornadoes that extinguished 24 lives and left hundreds homeless over a 60 mile area. I can't speak to the loss of life, but as a designer I'm trying to understand what happens to ones mental or emotional state when tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis destroy ones shelter? 

My daughter’s and son-in-law's home was hit and their neighborhood devastated, but thankfully everyone was safe. They took refuge at our house that night.  At first the shock made it hard to focus.  That night was sleepless even though we were all safe in our home. Where do we start? How do we get help? Uncertain the next morning, we still did not really know what to do.  But phone calls were made and soon there was a plan of action for the repairs.

We returned to their neighborhood and found many people still collapsed in confusion. To our surprise, however, strangers came from nowhere to offer a helping hand.  A friend organized a cleanup night and a group came from the safety of their homes to begin the restoration of homes and lives in this poor neighborhood! Watching this unfold renewed our faith in people's helpful spirits.

Thanks to all our angel helpers! Through their selfless efforts I realized that when disaster strikes we need to break free from our homes and do what we can to comfort those crumpled in chaos. We can use our homes as shelters and retreats, as long as we resolve to be part of the solution when the world needs us.  And we just might find our own strength renewed while we reach out to others.

Lisa Stewart is an Interior Designer in Raleigh, NC.