18 January 2023
GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — As David Merritt ambles around the workshop at the Tiny Houses Community in Greensboro, he has a certain “Abe-Lincoln-from-the-mountains” vibe: wise but reserved.
When he tells you his story, it can seem a little hard to believe.
“I used to be homeless,” he said. “I was on the street for almost 12 years.”
Over any twelve-year period – even in a place whose climate is as mild as Greensboro’s – there were stretches that can kill a person. Merritt admits it wasn’t easy.
“It was pretty tough. Sometimes, during the winter, it was pretty cold,” he said. “I survived because I had (people who would provide food). That’s the only way I had something to eat.”
Emma Holland, the Tiny Houses Community’s street outreach director, says Merritt’s case is not as rare as you may think.
“Most of us are really one paycheck away from being houseless,” Holland said. “A lot of us just have a support system around us – the family we can go to. The friends we can go to – some people don’t have that.”
Holland says that something as simple as having an address is essential when someone is trying to get a job. Homeless people, of course, don’t have one, and paying for a PO Box can be expensive over time.
Like a lot of people who spend time on the streets, Merritt had to start over to a degree.
“So getting him to the point of learning life skills, getting the basics: phone, ID, an address for mailing and getting him some job training was key,” Holland said.
It worked so well with Merritt that he’s not only been housed for years but has served on the Tiny Houses Community’s board of directors for the last nine years, providing a perspective only he could give.
For Holland, it reinforces one of life’s basic truths.
“People’s basic needs need to be met for them to be able to thrive and be able to continue to thrive,” she said.
See and hear more from Merritt and Holland in this edition of the Buckley Report.