“It’s changed my mindset,” Brian says about working with Roof Above to convert a former hotel into studio apartments. He used to assume homelessness was the result of poor choices. “I’ve learned that nobody chooses to be homeless. It’s not about bad decisions. Usually, there’s some type of trauma or an event you can trace it to and say here’s where everything started.”
As a project manager for JE Dunn Construction, Brian has overseen the hotel’s transformation into SECU The Rise on Clanton, a facility that will provide permanent supportive housing for 88 individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The experience has transformed more than the building – it’s changed the way Brian sees people who are struggling.
His mind shifted after reading THE HUNDRED STORY HOME, the book about the creation of Roof Above’s first permanent supportive housing site, Moore Place. Brian was struck by the tale of an individual whose life deteriorated after having back surgery. “He had a job, he had everything going for him. His life was on the right path. Then he goes in for surgery and comes out paralyzed. He’s in a lot of pain, has to learn to walk again, gets addicted to pain meds, loses his job. All of those are just ripples going back to that one event.”
Brian says the book’s stories will stick with him, but so will the positivity he’s seen from the Roof Above team—and the knowledge that The Rise will reduce Mecklenburg County’s chronically homeless population by about 20%. “I didn’t really know that this type of extended help was out there,” he says. “This is a home. I think it’s neat that everybody gets their own key. They can make it their space.”
He’s proud to have been able to give tours of the site to groups from other cities in the Carolinas who are considering similar projects.
“Nobody says as a kid they want to be homeless when they grow up—but it happens,” he says. “Working out here made me realize there is more you can do than just tossing someone a dollar. This place shows there’s a way you can help.”