The mission of Pee Wee Homes is to create dignified, affordable, tiny homes in a caring community for, and with, people transitioning out of homelessness.
PEE WEE'S STORY
Pee-Wee is 71 years old, has lived in Chapel Hill his whole life, and was a skilled brick mason for decades – building dozens of the brick buildings we see to this day in our community. After suffering a stroke in 1995, he lost his ability to walk and speak temporarily, and his acute motor control – leaving him unable to practice his trade. Through rehabilitation regained the strength to walk and the ability to speak, but the loss of acute control was permanent and he retired due to this disability. After losing steady income, he could not afford a home in Orange County and was homeless on and off for over a decade – sleeping in the woods for much of this period, and staying at the shelter for the final two years. Thankfully, Pee-Wee is now housed in a studio apartment – one of the very few homes in our community affordable with his fixed income of $750 per month. He built this community, literally, and yet there has been nowhere for him to live here in his retirement. The struggle of his search for housing in many ways inspired the launch of this effort – hence he became our collective’s namesake!
Our Community We know affordable housing is a crisis in Orange County, and crisis elicits from us as a collective, creative response – an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. Our impressive area affordable housing providers are doing incredible work to create affordable housing in our community. But with continuously decreasing funding and indomitable need, we are looking at this effort as one way that private philanthropy can help respond to this crisis – particularly for the lowest income members of our community. We know tiny homes are not the solution to homelessness as a standalone answer, but we hope and believe they can be a piece of the puzzle, and a helpful tool for some of our neighbors without homes.
We are a group of peers and colleagues who have come together to try to be a part of answering this glaring call for deeply affordable housing in our community. Homes that individuals with fixed income like Pee-Wee can afford; homes that allow elderly homeless individuals to age in place; homes that a single individual earning minimum wage can afford; and, importantly, homes that support independence within the context of community. We were drawn to the tiny house movement because of the efficiencies of space, the creative green designs to keep bills low, and the opportunity for small amounts of money to go a long way towards building someone their own independent home. Plus… when you think about 140-320 square feet of space, then the opportunities to squeeze a tiny home here and there all across our community are just limitless!
Current Board Members
Catherine Petrusz, Community Reinvestment Act Coordinator, National Community Reinvestment Coalition
Cherie Rosemond, Director, Partnerships in Aging Program; Adjunct Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health
Erika Walker (ex officio), Program Director, Pee Wee Homes
Greg Rockett, Residential Construction Director, Self-Help Credit Union
Hudson Vaughan, Former Senior Director, Marian Cheek Jackson Center
Jon Youngpenn, Former Co-Director, Community Empowerment Fund
Julius Alston, Alumni Ambassador, Community Empowerment Fund
Lisa Fischbeck, Vicar, Episcopal Church of the Advocate
Maggie West, Coordinator, Student Wellness & Basic Needs, Durham Technical Community College; Co-founder and former Co-Director, Community Empowerment Fund
Marion (Smalls) Warren, Current Resident, Pee Wee Homes
Mellicent O’Brien Blythe, Implementation Specialist, Center for Child & Family Health; Clinical Assistant Professor, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work
Sarah Howell, Lead Architect, Szostak Design