“I gave a sharp interview, I believe that’s what put me in there,” Leonard says with a smile. In April, he interviewed for one of the newly-completed PeeWee Homes, tiny homes built on the property of Episcopal Church of the Advocate in Chapel Hill. A couple of days later, he received a call: “‘You have one of the PeeWee Homes!’ I went and picked my key up, signed my lease, and been there ever since. This month it’ll be 8 months. I love it, I do.”
After experiencing more than 30 years of homelessness, Leonard’s home still feels new. When Leonard isn’t out working one of his two jobs, his home provides a peaceful haven. He regularly checks on his neighbor, PeeWee (after whom PeeWee Homes is named), who loves to fish in the pond out back. On Sundays, he attends church next door at Episcopal Church of the Advocate.
Before finding his own home, Leonard stayed at the InterFaith Council (IFC) shelter for seven years. There, he heard about and connected with CEF, and began working with Advocates to achieve a comprehensive slate of goals: securing multiple jobs, navigating benefits like food stamps, budgeting, saving for a laptop, and obtaining health insurance.
Leonard’s Advocate, Keely, recalls looking through housing listings for months on end without finding any answers. “Where do we go from here?” she wondered.
One day in the CEF office, Keely heard the PeeWee Homes were becoming available and realized they were an ideal fit: they were located by a bus stop, affordable, and Leonard met the income eligibility guidelines. Several meetings, emails, phone calls, a written application, and one “sharp interview” later, Leonard showed up to his regular Wednesday meeting with good news. “What did they say?” “I got one!” Keely’s notes from their meeting that day say it all, “it was just a billion exclamation points!”
“I was falling down until I started working with CEF. Keely, Zoe, and other Advocates… I’ve basically dealt with all the Advocates here.” Leonard continues to meet with his Advocates on Wednesday mornings, working towards even greater savings and financial goals. “I don’t bother my money in my CEF Safe Savings Account. I let it stay there.”
Originally from Raleigh, Leonard left home when he was 19 or 20. “I’ve been pretty much homeless most of my life. It was a rough life, I didn’t ever think I was going to get back on my feet, but I did. I kept the faith and kept going at it.”
“[Now] I’m on my feet, got me two jobs working two stores. I got my own place. I can look over my shoulder. I’ve got too much to lose now and I’m trying to stay ahead, keep the faith, and keep doing what I gotta do.’”