RAYNHAM — Six people received the keys to their new homes Thursday as Lumbee tribal officials celebrated the opening of its second Dreamcatcher community this year.

Lumbee tribal chairman John Lowery and Lumbee Tribal Council District 7 representatives cut the ribbon on the ongoing Dreamcatcher Raynham development. The subdivision will include 30 homes and an Administrative Office, according to Anthony Pevia, the director of Housing Development for the tribe.

The initial plan was for 23 homes to be built on the site. But, once the project got up and running, the officials realized the land could be outfitted to include seven additional homes.

“This is the third community that we’ve opened up this year and I can tell you, it is needed … We were projected to put 23 homes in the original phase but by 2024 we’re projected to do 30 homes,” Pevia said.

Melissa Meszaros, who works with the Department of Social Services for Cumberland County, was among the first to receive the keys to her new home. She plans to begin moving in with her son on Saturday.

“I’m so excited,” Meszaros said.

The Dreamcatcher vision

About 75 people came out to witness the ribbon cutting and heard remarks from special guest Mark Butterfield, the administrator for the Eastern Woodlands Office of Native American Programs and Krisa Johnson, the director of the Office of Loan Guarantee for the Office of Native American Programs.

Butterfield congratulated the Lumbee Tribe community “for what they have done in taking this vision and this money that the Office of Native American Programs gives to the tribe and turning it into actual homes.”

“Because, our mission is to provide decent and safe and sanitary homes for as many Indian people as we can,” Butterfield said.

The $10 million Dream Catcher Project is funded by a $6 million U.S. Department of Housing and Development Title 6 loan, $585,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $3.5 million from HUD’s Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act.

The Raynham development is the second of three Dreamcatcher projects to come into fruition. The Lumbee Tribe held a ribbon cutting for Dreamcatcher Union Chapel this summer.

The Dreamcatcher Project was first introduced in 2019. The initial plan was to construct 50 homes in three communities; 15 homes on Union Chapel Road in Pembroke, 12 in Prospect and 23 in Raynham.

Pushback from the residents of District 5, where Prospect is located, resulted in the tribe backing out of the location and instead placing the 12 homes in Pembroke near the Arrowpoint subdivision.

Bradley Locklear, the Director of Housing Services for the Lumbee Tribe, said he recently celebrated his fourth year working for the tribe. He joined the staff the day after Hurricane Florence devastated Robeson County, he said.

“When I first started back then, we had three sets of blueprints, we were building a duplex down in Allenton and didn’t have a road, Rowland was underwater; we didn’t have a lot of anything going on but here we are today. Aren’t we blessed,” Locklear said.

Locklear reflected back to when Tribal Administrator Leon Jacobs had the vision to buy the 43 acres of land in Raynham many years ago and was met with criticism.

“A lot of people question ‘Why are y’all buying land out in the middle of nowhere? What are y’all going to do with it?’ But, apparently, Mr. Leon and past administrators and past councils did have a vision and I’d like to think that we still have that vision,” Locklear said.

Addressing housing needs

As the tribe celebrated the success of establishing more housing, the tribal officials still acknowledged a growing need for more.

“Stable housing is very important. I can’t tell you the number of houses I’ve been to in the county or the number of calls I’ve been to in this county and our members, our people, they are in very dire conditions,” said Tribal Councilman Rudy Locklear, District 7.

Pevia said the waiting list of people seeking housing in the area is currently at 124.

“The need for housing, affordable housing at that, is way overdue,” he said.

Chairman Lowery said there is a “ton of need,” that the tribe will continuously attempt to catch up to.

“We could build 200 houses and have them done tomorrow and we will still not hit the need just among our people here in this area,” Lowery said.

Once the Dreamcatcher projects are complete, the tribe will begin focusing on home ownership, Lowery said.

“We have numerous families in rental properties who have been there for years that are paying mortgage-like rent. We could easily work with them to move on over to a new home and actually make that home their home and therefore we could open up a rental house,” Lowery said.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.