Reflections from the Outgoing PWH Board Members

July 31, 2023Uncategorized

This August, six founding board members will conclude their second and final term on Pee Wee Home’s Board, and in September, the board will elect new members. Outgoing board members include, PWH Board Chair, Lisa Fischbeck; Sarah Howell; Board Secretary, Catherine Petrusz; Greg Rockett; Jonathan Youngpenn; and Hudson Vaughan. We wanted to offer the outgoing board members a moment to reflect on their time with PWH in this capacity, and share what they have learned along the way.

Each of the board members bring their own expertise to the organization. Among these six, there are decades of experiences in community organizing, architectural design, organizational management, construction management, and more. As I interviewed them, it felt a bit like magic hearing how the ensemble came together, and how each person contributed to the organization’s development.

Lisa Fischbeck, PWH Board Chair

PWH was incorporated into a 501c3 in 2017, and since then, Lisa Fischbeck has served as PWH Board Chair. As Board Chair, she has led PWH with organizational skills she brought from her ministry as the launching vicar of The Episcopal Church of the Advocate. Additionally, Lisa has focused on working with faith communities interested in building homes on their land.

Fischbeck’s work with PWH has been both incredibly informative and inspiring. She said, “I am taking with me not just knowledge, but a real passion for finding ways to make housing more affordable for people in our community.”

“I am taking with me not just knowledge, but a real passion for finding ways to make housing more affordable for people in our community.”

– Lisa Fischbeck

Fischbeck’s work with PWH has inspired her to study other congregations also doing affordable housing work. She is focusing on the role of small and medium sized churches because she believes that every sized church has a call and the capability to provide affordable housing.

Sarah Stehli Howell, PWH Board Member

Sarah Stehli Howell serves as PWH’s in-house architect, and has collaborated with Greg Rocket, Hudson Vaughan, and construction teams, to design and construct the current seven PWH’s, and the three forthcoming Hill Street Homes.

Howell was introduced to PWH through Fischbeck when Howell was attending The Church of the Advocate. Howell had previously designed small homes in New Orleans after the wake of Hurricane Katrina. From her previous experience, Howell knew that PWH would need someone with construction and architectural knowledge on the team.

Therefore, Howell joined the PWH team. With her, she brought her creative and efficient home designs. PWH’s are typically the size of two parking spaces, or roughly 350 square feet. With such a small space, Early on, Howell developed some small house floor-plans that could be clad to match the context of any site. She says that “This is not about making a bold architectural statement for me, it’s about designing houses that are sustainable, affordable, and blend into their neighborhood.”

“This is not about making a bold architectural statement for me, it’s about designing houses that are sustainable, affordable, and blend into their neighborhood.”

– Sarah Stehli Howell

Not only are PWH’s beautiful and contextualized to their location and the needs of our residents, PWH’s are also smart, efficient, and sustainable designs. Howell has also been investigating prefabricated homes, and is hoping that in the future PWH can explore alternative construction options.

Catherine Petrusz, PWH Board Secretary

Catherine Petrusz has served as PWH Board Secretary since 2017 and was introduced to PWH originally through her work at Self Help. It wasn’t until her neighbor’s sister and friend, Marie Funk, a previous PWH Board Member and social worker, reached out to see if Petrusz would be interested in being on the board.

Petrusz has helped navigate PWH through some complicated organizational issues, and most recently has focused on forming personnel policies. When PWH was first formed, the work was entirely done through the volunteer efforts of board members and other dedicated individuals. Now, PWH has hired two full time staff, and PWH is growing into that different reality.

With PWH’s growing team, Petrusz see’s the importance of PWH building a resilient and sustainable infrastructure that will support the staff, and, in turn, support the community with much-needed affordable homes. In order to build more homes, Petrusz says “[PWH] is doing important foundational work to build a resilient organization that will sustain future homes and future tenants.”

“[PWH] is doing important foundational work to build a resilient organization that will sustain future homes and future tenants.”

– Catherine Petrusz

Petrusz also complimented the work of the founding PWH Board Members, and PWH Executive Director, Erika Walker, and others who have been creating policies, finding efficiencies, and laying the groundwork to build future homes.

Greg Rockett, PWH Board Member

Greg Rockett has served on PWH’s construction team since the organization’s inception in 2015, and was introduced to PWH through his work at Self-Help. Rockett met Jonathan Youngpenn, Maggie West, and Hudson Vaughan, when Self-Help collaborated with Community Empowerment Fund (CEF). Rockett, Howell, and Vaughan have guided PWH through constructing the current seven PWH’s, and the three forthcoming Hill Street Homes.

His experience with construction, similar to Howell, has been essential to the construction of our homes. Finding contractors for building PWH’s has been difficult and Rockett has met that challenge in stride. He has also been able to communicate between the PWH Board and the contractors PWH’s hires.

Rockett has enjoyed working with all the different PWH volunteers, contractors, and residents. He said “I’ve always had the satisfaction that we have put people in homes… when I built houses [previously], one of my favorite things was just all the people… You worked with every kind of person.”

“I’ve always had the satisfaction that we have put people in homes… when I built houses [previously], one of my favorite things was just all the people… You worked with every kind of person.”

– Greg Rockett

Jonathan Youngpenn, PWH Board Member

Jonathan Youngpenn, former PWH Board Member, Maggie West, and Hudson Vaughan co-founded PWH in 2015. Before PWH, however, in 2009, Youngpenn, and West co-founded CEF. In working with people navigating housing in Chapel Hill and Durham, they recognized the challenges individuals faced. Youngpenn says “West is always thinking ten years ahead,” and “had the vision for [PWH].” CEF was always trying to fill the gaps, and housing stood out as one of those gaps. PWH felt like a natural extension from CEF.

At CEF, they also advocated for changing local zoning codes, or changing local government processes to include affordable housing. Youngpenn said “that was the most immediate way to increase the housing supply, and that work is really hard, complicated, and slow.” With PWH,​ Youngpenn said “We wanted to create something that would take that power and put it directly in the hands of local community members.”

“We wanted to create something that would take that power and put it directly in the hands of local community members.”

– Jonathan Youngpenn

PWH has always said that we are just one piece of the puzzle​, and i​t’s important to demonstrate what small local nonprofits can accomplish. Youngpenn said, “​there’s so much more work to do,” and he hopes the community can continue to apply ​the power and hope that local nonprofits – like CEF, Inner-Faith Council, the Marion Cheek Jackson Center, and others – inspire.

Hudson Vaughan, PWH Board Member

PWH co-founder, Hudson Vaughan has been a vital visionary leader for the organization since PWH’s inception. Vaughan was not available for an interview but some of his greatest contributions to PWH have been his knowledge and connections with town members, and the experience he brings from his work as co-founder and Interim Executive Director of the Marion Cheek Jackson Center.

At PWH, Vaughan has contributed to PWH advocacy work, including modifying housing codes to optimize the building process. He has also led our initiative to build PWH’s on faith community land. Additionally, in May of this year, Vaughan graduated from Duke Divinity School with his Masters of Divinity, and he continues to remain in the Triangle area with his spouse, Maggie West, and their son.

A Gathering for Faith and Community Leaders

May 22, 2023Church of the Advocate, Community, News

On March 18th, Faith and community leaders from all across the Triangle ate, sang, and learned together at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate for Pee Wee Homes’ first ever Information Session for Faith and Community Leaders, an effort to mobilize and inspire faith communities to build tiny homes on their property.

Leading the way, the Advocate is PWH’s first location on church-owned land, hosting three residents in three tiny homes, and was the perfect venue to inspire others to do the same. PWH has completed four other homes on land acquired through the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. Subsequently, PWH has been striving to replicate the strategy of building homes on the grounds of faith communities like the Advocate. PWH Board Chair Lisa Fischbeck and Duke Divinity School Intern, Laura Batts, have been leading efforts to connect with local faith communities in hopes of finding fertile ground for more of these homes.

The March event grew out of this initiative to inform the community of the opportunity to partner with PWH. Moreover, this event was meant to encourage continued collaboration among religious, nonprofit, and local government sectors.

There was an energy in the air as the chapel filled with congregation members and community leaders from Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Apex, Raleigh, Cary, and Durham. Additionally, local officials, and community leaders from organizations like Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) and Inter-Faith Council (IFC) were also represented. 

The event was packed with guest speakers, music, a raffle, and opportunities to connect and network. Key speakers, Gary Bumgardner, community leader and affordable housing advocate, and Katina Welch, community leader and PWH board member, shared their experiences accessing housing and emphasized the role of faith communities in filling the gaps. Others spoke on the PWH model and current relevant policy updates, including founding board members Fischbeck and Hudson Vaughn, and PWH Executive Director Erika Walker.

PWH board member David Lyles generously donated a one-of-a-kind quilt to be raffled at the event. Guests were invited to make a donation of any size for one raffle ticket. Lyles made this quilt specifically for PWH and even included the shape of homes throughout the quilt!

The CEF Advocacy Choir performed, “Smile,” a lively and hopeful original song written by Yvette Matthews, Office and Community Organizer at CEF’s Chapel Hill office. The crowd caught on quickly, singing, clapping and swaying along to the the uplifting song.

We plan to continue engagement with faith communities in the area to mobilize support for affordable housing in the form of actual homes on land owned by those communities, financial and in-kind support to affordable housing organizations, and community organizing for meaningful policy change.

If you or someone you know attended the event or you missed it and want to know more, we would love to connect! Email Laura at with any feedback, reflections, or questions.

Dignified Doors: A response to residents’ needs

January 30, 2023News, Special Projects

Dignified Doors:
A response to residents’ needs

By: Maggie Simonds (Program Intern)

In the early spring of 2022, a blossoming relationship between Pee Wee Homes and local foundation, Healthier, Greener, Kinder, was forming. Almost simultaneously, a request for screen doors from residents emerged, and the “Dignified Doors” project was born. The purpose of Dignified Doors is to provide residents with another source of natural light, air circulation, and social connectedness to neighbors and community members. The project is intended to promote resident engagement with their outdoor space and connection to community. When asked about the new updates, Pee Wee Homes resident Smalls (pictured right) shared the following reflection:

Smalls relaxes in his new rocking chair on the front porch of his Pee Wee Home

“I love my new chair and relaxing on the porch, it’s so comfortable!”

Volunteer Engagement

The project would not have been a success without the help of numerous volunteers from UNC, the Orange County community, and beyond. Volunteers installed 5 dual-functioning storm doors with screens to provide all Pee Wee Homes residents with increased access to fresh air, natural light, and visibility. A fresh coat of paint for the doors and surrounding trim was put up, and sustainable, durable porch furniture was assembled to provide residents a comfortable place to enjoy their newly renovated porches! Residents were able to choose which style chair best suited their needs, some chose rocking chairs, while others chose more traditional chairs. Now all Pee Wee Homes residents have freshly painted entryways, functional screen doors, and porch furniture to enjoy for years to come! Already, residents have been sharing the enjoyment and comfort they feel in the newly renovated space.

Healthier, Greener, Kinder Foundation

We look forward to many more years of partnership with the Healthier, Greener, Kinder Foundation. To read more about the foundation that made this work possible, please visit their website by clicking their logo.

Interested in supporting future initiatives? Consider volunteering or making a donation!
Contact us at

PWH Welcomes Divinity Intern

November 7, 2022News

We’re excited to introduce the Pee Wee Homes community to Laura Batts, Graduate Intern from Duke Divinity School!

Laura is a Master of Divinity student at Duke Divinity School. She joined us in September 2022 and will be focused on connecting with faith communities in Chapel Hill that are interested in affordable housing. Laura is originally from central Indiana from a small town called Clayton. She attended Anderson University (IN) and received her bachelors in Christian Ministries and Mathematics. Laura enjoys being outside, drinking coffee, and being creative in various arts, crafts, and DIY projects. She also enjoys spending time with her friends and family in the Triangle area, including her fiancé, Sam, (they will be married in June of 2023). After graduation, Laura intends to continue pursuing community oriented and creative ministry.

Laura Batts

AP News Feature

July 25, 2022News

AP News interviewed resident Nathaniel Lee and Board Member Rev. Lisa Fischbeck for an article released on June 25, 2022!

A roof over their head: Churches use tiny homes for homeless

Churches across the U.S. are tackling the big question of how to address homelessness in their communities with a small solution: tiny homes.

On vacant plots near their parking lots and steepled sanctuaries, congregations are building everything from fixed and fully contained micro homes to petite, moveable cabins, and several other styles of small-footprint dwellings in between.

Church leaders are not just trying to be more neighborly. The drive to provide shelter is rooted in their beliefs — they must care for the vulnerable, especially those without homes.

“It’s just such an integral part of who we are as a people of faith,” said the Rev. Lisa Fischbeck, former Episcopal vicar and the board chair of Pee Wee Homes, an affordable housing organization building tiny abodes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Spring 2022 Newsletter!

March 21, 2022News

Our Spring 2022 Newsletter is out!

Here’s what’s inside:

  • PWH Native Garden Days
  • Keepin’ it 100
  • Mitchell Lane Update
  • Abundance Report featuring grants from Northside Neighborhood Initiative, Triangle Community Foundation, New Hope Audubon Society, and more!

Check out past newsletters:

PWH Welcomes New Staff

November 29, 2021Uncategorized

Please join us in welcoming two new staff: Program Director, Erika Walker, and Graduate Intern, Maggie Simonds!

Erika Walker
Maggie Simonds

Erika joined Pee Wee Homes in September 2021 bringing over 11 years of project and program management experience across international development, higher education, racial justice, public health, reproductive justice, refugee resettlement and nonprofit management. She has an MPA from the UNC School of Government. Having called Carrboro and Chapel Hill home for 8 years, she is excited to return to the community where she was born and build deeper connections with her neighbors. Erika enjoys gardening, hiking, singing and running, but mostly having good food and good laughs with the people she loves. She and her partner have a goofy 1-year-old and a goofier adopted rottweiler mix.

Maggie is an MPH student at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Nutrition and Dietetics concentration. She joined us in November 2021 and will support Pee Wee Homes to create a meaningful community for residents, neighbors, and others in Chapel Hill. Maggie is originally from Massachusetts and graduated from Northeastern University with a BS in Health Science. She moved to North Carolina from Portland, Maine where she worked as a FoodCorps service member teaching elementary-age students cooking and food justice-based lessons while helping to build a school garden. Outside of class, Maggie is passionate about cooking, running, and skiing. In the future, she hopes to continue community-based work and use her degree to work in school food.

Support Pee Wee Homes on Hill Street!

September 27, 2021News
Architectural renderings of 3 tiny homes on green lot with small gazebo
Proposed homes on Hill Street

We need your help to build three new affordable tiny homes on Hill Street in Carrboro. These homes will provide much needed private, permanent and dignified housing to our community members who have experienced homelessness and housing insecurity. The Carrboro Town Council is meeting on September 28 at 7:00pm to discuss and hear public comments on our proposal to rezone the lot to allow construction of these extremely affordable homes. We are asking YOU, our beloved supporters, to speak up and let Council know that we are a welcoming community – that all of us deserve safe, affordable housing.

You can find out more about the project by reading this community letter of support. You can also show your support by:

  1. Signing onto the letter and adding comments.
  2. Writing to Carrboro Town Council at
  3. Calling  919-918-7309 to submit comments.
  4. Attending meeting by requesting the Zoom link at or 919-918-7309.

All comments must be submitted 24 hours in advance meaning by 7:00pm on September 27!

Video By UNC Student!

September 24, 2018Church of the Advocate, Construction

 Video Produced by Justin James

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Construction is well underway on the three Pee Wee Homes on the Episcopal Church of the Advocate property off Homestead Rd in Chapel Hill. Volunteers are needed from September-November.

September volunteer shifts are ready for signup:
Help install siding 
If you’d like to provide snacks for the crew – fruit, home-baked treats, etc.  just drop by the site during one of the construction shifts