For those privileged enough to avoid them, poverty and mental illness can seem invisible. The relationship between the two is tenuous and cyclical; according to the WHO, over 50% of homeless people have some form of mental illness. For people trapped in this cycle, it can be difficult or impossible to break out.

In Chatham County, 12% of the population live in poverty. With all the different socioeconomic factors that drive people into this position, the solution isn’t always obvious. Thankfully there are some great local organizations helping to figure it out, and Bold Construction is thrilled to partner with them.

You may have seen pictures of “tiny houses,” cute little homes that focus on minimalism and sustainability. They are the darling of Pinterest and Facebook posts alike, but have a deeper goal than just likes. Tiny houses are a surprisingly fun solution to the problem of rising home costs.

Inspired by a similar project in Eugene, Oregon, Chatham Habitat for Humanity and the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health are bringing tiny houses to the homeless.

The Farm at Penny Lane is a 40-acre development of these tiny houses, each one renting for $250 a month to people with mental illnesses. Many of these people live on small government benefits, and cannot keep up with the escalating cost of the Triangle.

Bold Construction is proud to construct the project’s first unit, a 336-square foot unit that serves as the project’s “pilot house.” We expect to complete it sometime in April. The project is in its early stages, but the pilot house serves as an important proof of concept. Upon completion, some test clients will take turns living in it to give design feedback. After feedback and design changes, nine more houses will follow its example.

In the future the development will have a bus stop and an office for an Assertive Community Treatment Team, a team of doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals. These staff will be on premises but not living with the tenants, giving them independence and responsible care.

Macon County commissioner Ronnie Beale – also a member of governor McCrory’s mental health task force – thinks the solution is an appropriate start. He emphasized the importance of a job, shelter and a “buddy” to help with mental health recovery. The Farm at Penny Lane is a first step.


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