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UNC partners, community leaders break ground on Tiny Homes Village

School of Social Work administrators, faculty and staff joined UNC colleagues, community leaders and others on Nov. 15, to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the innovative Tiny Homes Village (THV).

After years of planning and development and the generosity of donors, construction on the historic project will soon begin on UNC’s “Farm at Penny Lane” property in northern Chatham County. When complete, THV will include 15 homes – each about 400 square feet in size – and a clubhouse, all of which are designed for veterans and other people who have persistent and severe mental illnesses, including PTSD and substance use disorders.

“I believe these homes and the village where they are located are a symbol of hope for people with mental illness and their loved ones. Hope that things can be different, that life can change for the better, get easier – even if for a little while,” social work associate professor Amy Blank Wilson told those gathered at the groundbreaking event. Wilson is co-director of the community project and has worked with THV founder Thava Mahadevan for the last few years to get the housing model off the ground.

“(These homes) will provide people who live in them with the assurance that they have somewhere to call home, in a community where they are welcomed, included, accepted and supported,” Wilson added.

UNC Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health (part of the UNC School of Medicine), UNC School of Social Work and the nonprofit organization Cross Disability Services (XDS, Inc.) have led efforts to develop THV. Mahadevan praised the groups, as well as Chatham County leaders, for supporting the unique approach to mental health care and treatment.

image of Tiny Homes founder Thava Mahadevan with Millie Brobston with the International Oak Foundation and social work associate professor Amy Blank Wilson.
Millie Brobston (center) chats with Thava Mahadevan and Amy Blank Wilson following the ceremony. Brobston is the programme officer for the international Oak Foundation, which recently donated $1 million to the THV. The money will help pay for the preparation of the 4-acre site, the construction of three homes, paving and other needed road improvements, and installation of sewer.

“Not knowing where you are going to sleep is one of the biggest stressors that someone can face,” he said. “I feel like with the partnership with UNC and with all the community members here that we can make a difference.”

Most recently, the School was awarded a $1 million, two-year grant from the international Oak Foundation to finance construction of three homes, for road improvements along Penny Lane and for sewer installation. UNC School of Social Work donors have funded the construction of two other homes. Additional money will be raised to complete the remaining 10 houses and clubhouse. THV will not open to new residents until construction is complete.

More information on the Tiny Homes Village.

Groundbreaking photos: Check out all the photos from the Tiny Home Village groundbreaking celebration in our Tiny Homes photo album on Facebook.

Media coverage: The Tiny Homes Village was featured in several recent news stories and TV broadcasts, including WRAL’s “Tiny Homes could help those with mental illness“; Our Chatham’s “Could tiny homes be the solution for affordable housing and mental health inclusivity?“; and The Daily Tar Heel’s “Tiny Homes Village to provide housing for those with mental health conditions.”