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Tiny homes could help those with mental illness

Posted November 15, 2019 4:37 p.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2019 7:34 p.m. EST

— The idea came as many great ideas come. Thava Mahadevan was watching an HGTV show about the latest real estate craze, Tiny Homes.

"Certainly it made sense. You build it small," he said.

Finding affordable housing for people in need had been a lifelong goal of his, and suddenly he saw a way to make it happen.

He quickly went to work trying to find partners to make his big idea a reality. A social worker by trade, he reached out to the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and found Professor Amy Blank Wilson.

"I have watched how the lack of access to safe and affordable housing creates a fight for survival that many people can't overcome," Blank Wilson said.

So the two got to work on a plan. They've spent several years meeting with architects and crafting the floor plans. Now it's time for construction to begin on what will be a 15-person community for people dealing with mental illness. These are people who often can't find or keep jobs because of their challenges and find it hard to work on healing while having to find a place to live.

"It's a game changer. In my career I have not seen anything as innovative as this," said Blank Wilson.

"You sort of figure out a way to live for the day, and when you are living for the day you are not thinking about your recovery, you are not thinking about your health, you are just thinking where are you going to put our head that night," said Mahadevan.

The homes will be constructed for $50,000 each and each resident will be asked to pay a small portion of that each month. The community will sit on the grounds of the Farm at Penny Lane in Pittsboro which already has infrastructure for those with mental illness including a farm and therapy facilities.

The tiny homes project is made possible through a public and private partnership between XDS, Inc., a North Carolina nonprofit organization based in Chatham County that assists individuals with multiple disabilities and the UNC School of Social Work.

The project has also gotten helps from several grants.

"We see this as a demonstration project where we are working to provide proof of a concept," said Blank Wilson.

The project is community is scheduled to be finished and ready for residents in 2021.

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