Re: Lease Renewal — “Dear Nathaniel, It’s been a pleasure having you as a tenant and we would like to thank you for choosing to renew your lease.”
Wow. It is hard to describe how much this one little sentence means. For Nathaniel, or “Pee-Wee” as he has been known by friends and family since birth, this letter from his landlord represents the rst time throughout over a decade of homelessness that he has called a place home for a whole year — much less two!
Pee-Wee is 72 years old, has lived in Chapel Hill his whole life, and was a skilled brick mason for decades — building dozens of the buildings we see to this day. After su ering a stroke in 1995, he lost his ability to walk and speak temporarily, and his acute motor control — leaving him unable to practice his trade. Through rehabilitation he regained the strength to walk and the ability to speak, but the loss of acute control was permanent and he retired due to this disability. After losing steady income, he could not a ord a home in Orange County and was homeless on and o for over a decade — sleeping in the woods for much of this period, and staying at the shelter for the nal two years.
He worked diligently with CEF while in the shelter to save his retirement income, and was able to build up a nest egg of $3,000 towards his move. Because of this preparation, when he and his Advocate nally
— after months of searching — found an a ordable studio apartment posted online, he was able to jump on the opportunity. He paid the security deposit and signed the lease the exact same day, bought furni- ture, and was all moved in by the end of the week!
Since his move-in, Pee-Wee has continued to budget and save with CEF, using his CEF savings
account to make sure he always sets aside enough of his xed income for rent and utilities. “I’ll put it like this: My feet was in the dirt. Now my feet is not in the dirt. I’m on my way up, and the good Lord willing I’m going to keep going up. My sister I hadn’t seen in about 3 or 4 years, she said, ‘I’m so proud of you! You doing good, you doing good.’”
His two sisters, from whom he was previously estranged, surprised him on his birthday this year and rented a great big room at Golden Corral, with 25 members of his family and friends. “And next thing I knew, all these people I knew… I was eating steak and a piece of chicken. I had to put it down, because I was so much in joy, I hadn’t been with them in years. I didn’t want to cry in front of all of them, but I got tears in my eyes.”
“You know what they used to call me? The mayor of Franklin Street.” To this day, judges, business owners, and all kinds of folks greet Pee-Wee every day, whether he’s having co ee at Sutton’s or sweeping up outside one of the businesses. They are greeted in turn with his ready full-toothed smile and snarky sense of humor. Looking around his apartment, you can see this community of support represented in every beloved object, as he calls by name each person who was so excited to see him in housing. The co ee-pot given by a lawyer, the throw rug given collectively by the police department, the microwave given by a UNC employee… this is a true home.
We are proud of Pee-Wee, too, and proud to have this honorary Mayor’s stamp of approval:
“If you want help, go to CEF. If you need anything go to CEF.”
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