In 1989 Father Eugene McCreesh, a Jesuit priest at St. Peter's Catholic Church in downtown Charlotte, began an organization to provide affordable housing for people living on city streets or for those about to be evicted from their present homes. The church rented run-down houses from HUD for $1 per year, and volunteers renovated the structures bringing them up to code so that folks could live in them comfortably. St. Peter's Episcopal Church eventually teamed up with its Tryon Street neighbor and the organization became known as St. Peter’s Homes (SPH).
Over the next several years, the two churches approached the city's homeless problem by providing houses or apartments to single adults or families with children. It was necessary to hook up with various social service agencies in order to teach financial skills and other training necessary for home ownership. When a group was formed to look into a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) apartment complex for homeless, disabled men, SPH had the necessary 501(c)3 non-profit credentials. The two groups united to build a residence for 63 men in need of housing and support services in order to end the cycle of homelessness hindering their growth as productive Charlotte citizens.
Churches, businesses, the government, HUD, and individuals all worked together to find land and to finance and build our present residence on N. Davidson Street. David Furman, a Charlotte architect, developed plans for the apartment complex and the Jeremiah Group of churches donated the funds to purchase the property. Even though Father Gene did not live to witness the construction and opening of the SRO in 2003, his presence is felt within the halls of Charlotte's first permanent housing complex with on-site support services for previously marginalized men desiring a place to call home. On October 6, 2011, an addition with 27 efficiency units opened on campus.
Residents pay a minimum monthly rent. The men living there are helped with health issues, the stigma of mental illness, addiction problems, joblessness, and/or other difficulties from which they may suffer. Some men move on when their lives stabilize, others have chosen to stay at McCreesh Place where they feel safe and comfortable. Several previous residents return to volunteer on site, to give back for the help that they received. Several men have died from health issues while living in the apartment community, but they have had friends and "family" to mourn their passing.
With concerned citizens, government officials, religious communities, and business leaders, hope has been rekindled for folks living on the edge of society. With vision and hard work, more apartment complexes can and will be built to house Charlotte's homeless population. Father Gene, an advocate for people in need, would be proud.
1989 - St. Peter’s Homes founded
2002, January - Land purchased and groundbreaking ceremony held
2003, November - McCreesh Place opens doors to 63 residents
2011, October - Addition of 27 efficiency units opened
Architect David Furman
About 20 years ago, David recalls, his architectural company designed the building for the Metrolina Food Bank and Crisis Assistance Ministry. They were also involved in the Urban Ministry project. Thanks to the urging of his wife Marilyn, he then joined the SRO (Single Room Occupancy) committee. "Marilyn and I went to visit SROs around the country." At a conference in NY, he found the model for the 8-pod clusters which are seen at McCreesh Place. Everyone has their own room, but bathrooms and kitchens are shared.
David notes that when he set about trying to find a site for McCreesh Place, zoning issues became a problem. The SRO was a building type that didn't exist in Charlotte, so there was no precedence for zoning. Together with the planning commission, zoning regulations were developed, and then David had to find land appropriate for building the apartment community. Researching the locations, he knew it was necessary to be on public transportation routes and close to other amenities. A property on North Davidson turned up, and the SRO committee put it under contract. A HUD grant helped move the project forward.
The building was designed and priced, and the financial information was put together. The City Housing Trust Fund supported the project, which would require 2 million dollars to complete. "The concept of the SRO is great, and the alternative is you're homeless....The idea behind the SRO is building the idea of community and the notion of communal responsibility." McCreesh Place offers a safe, drug-free environment. With his architectural company, David has said that he tries to do things that make a real difference in Charlotte, and McCreesh Place is a step in the right direction to help solve the problem of homelessness in his community.
The Original Building
McCreesh Place, a three-story building, utilizes a 63-unit, single-room-occupancy design. Each private apartment is equipped with a bed, dresser, desk, refrigerator, sink, and an AC/heater unit. The building is organized into clusters of 4 apartments, or suites, which share bathroom and shower facilities. Residents from 2 suites share a kitchen. These common kitchen areas contribute to small group interaction, while also giving residents a sense of privacy.
In addition to 16 suites and 8 wings with common kitchens, the building has a reading lounge on the third floor and a large community room on the first floor where Resident Association meetings, holiday celebrations and special events occur. Laundry facilities are located on property. A 9th wing consists of staff offices.
A distinct feature of the building is a prominent window above the front entrance that remains lit throughout the night. David Furman prioritized light in the design of the building, using large windows in both apartments and common areas, and this light symbolizes the “beacon of hope” that McCreesh Place has become for its residents and for the community.