“As a person with a disability, housing is a challenge, to put it mildly,” shares Kate.
A native of Upstate New York, Kate came to North Carolina to attend the UNC School of Social Work. When she graduated, she stayed — and she’s now a social worker in the pediatric oncology clinic at UNC Hospitals. Because Kate has cerebral palsy, finding accessible, affordable housing was always a challenge, both when she was a student and after she graduated.
But in 2009, that all changed. Her mom saw an ad for Community Home Trust sharing the news that we were beginning construction on our first accessible properties and were looking for potential homebuyers who needed accommodations. Kate applied and was approved, and as her home at East 54 in downtown Chapel Hill was being built, she was able to be a daily part of the process of designing a home that would suit her needs. Our liaison worked with the developer’s liaison, and together they planned modifications that would make her home easy for her to navigate without raising the cost to a level that would no longer be affordable, like pocket doors and adjusted counter heights.
Now, eleven years later, her home is still perfect for her, says Kate. Although she is currently working from home because of the pandemic, in the past Kate has relied on public transportation to get to and from work at the hospital — and that’s easily accessible from her home in downtown Chapel Hill. Her condo is just the right size, with room for friends and family to visit (pre-pandemic, of course), and she’s able to be very independent during the day when she’s in her wheelchair because of the modifications that meet her accessibility needs. And because she’s in a building that takes safety measures like cleanliness and mask-wearing seriously, she has been able to stay healthy, as have her personal care aides who come to her home regularly.
“Having a home is not to be taken for granted,” says Kate, who too often sees patients for whom safe housing is not a guarantee. Particularly during the pandemic, she is keenly aware of how significant it is that she not only has a safe, affordable place to live, but also to work. And she’s grateful, too, for her ongoing relationship with CHT, through which she has received support as she’s navigated challenges like needing to replace her HVAC unit.
“One of the things that I love about the mission of Community Home Trust is the idea of not just putting you in a home but keeping you in your home,” says Kate. “That, to me, is really profound. As a social worker, that’s something that really rings true to me. It’s not just how can we fix this problem right now, but how can we empower you to have a solution in the long term? How can we not just put a bandaid on something but make this a solution?”
Kate is not only a CHT homeowner, but she’s an evangelist for permanently affordable housing, too. When she meets people that she thinks could benefit from CHT’s model — like the bus driver who transports her back and forth to work, who is a single dad — Kate makes sure they know that there is a path to homeownership out there that might surprise them. She emphasizes how important it is that CHT helps people like her who serve the community be able to afford to live in the community where they work. And after 11 years in her home and with no plans to move ever again, Kate is just the right person to help spread the word!