UNC School of Social Work Dean Gary Bowen toured The Farm at Penny Lane on April 20, 2018, accompanied by assistant professor Amy Blank Wilson and The Farm’s operations director, Thava Mahadevan. The Farm is the site for the “Tiny Homes” project for which Wilson serves as principal investigator and spans 40 acres of woods and fields in northern Chatham County.
The “Tiny Homes” project is developing a village, or very small community, for adults with mental illnesses and other health conditions. Each “Tiny Home” houses a single adult and is designed to provide an optimal living environment with therapeutic aspects.
The Farm itself “uses a holistic and sustainable approach to enhance the quality of life of individuals with severe and persistent mental illness by offering opportunities to become healthier and more self-sufficient,” says Mahadevan, who is affiliated with the UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health. Residents can access services, work on farm tasks and choose the degree to which they socialize with their neighbors. The nonprofit Cross Disability Services Inc. (XDS) is a partner on the project.
Wilson’s work with The Farm was initially funded with a $75,000 Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities (UNC Chapel Hill) and has received a $50,000 grant from the Oak Foundation.
“This work models effective community involvement and action and cross-disciplinary collaboration in support of a vulnerable and marginalized population group,” Bowen said. “The work is strength-based and recognizes stable housing as foundational to daily living and well-being.”
“It’s another example of our School of Social Work working in concert with University and community partners to make a real difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities,” he added, noting that he was impressed with what he saw.
“I am proud of the commitment and work of Dr. Wilson and very pleased to be working in concert with Mr. Mahadevan.”
During the tour, April Harper (pictured), sustainable poultry program specialist at The Farm, introduced Bowen to “Prince,” the rooster in the background along with Black Australorps hens in the flock. Harper has trained Prince to crow on command, Bowen reports.
SSW advisory board members are scheduled to visit the “Tiny Homes” project site at The Farm later this month.