CARRBORO - The framed pictures reflecting a life so far hang from floor to ceiling in Kurt O'Briant's apartment.
Wearing a green bowtie, blue overcoat, gray snow cap, sweater vest and sunglasses, he uses his cane to point out the dozens of certificates and mementos that line his Club Nova studio apartment in Carrboro.
"All this has occurred since I've been here," he said. "It's a lifetime back here; it tells the story. It's me."
He's framed Steve the mail man, friends Ralph and Suzay in June 2009, and actress Natalie Portman. He's framed the framers from Framer's Corner on Main Street, where he has spent $2,100 over the years on glass and four wood strips to surround his memories.
O'Briant is one of 24 tenants at the Club Nova apartments, one of the few affordable apartment complexes in the Triangle for people with disabilities.
On Friday, CASA, a nonprofit housing group based in Raleigh, celebrated its 20th year and its recent purchase of the Club Nova apartments with about 50 people, including tenants, U.S. Rep. David Price, and other local political leaders.
The 24 apartments sit behind the Club Nova clubhouse for people with mental illness, which has been in Carrboro for 30 years.
The apartments were owned by independent investors and the now-defunct Mental Health Association of North Carolina. When the association closed last year, CASA bought the property and now manages it.
Residents must earn 50 percent or below the median area income, be mentally or physically disabled and have a referral from the Orange County Housing Authority to live there. Tenants pay $100 to $250 a month, but CASA collects $570 per month for each apartment, said Arnetta Adams-Brown, CASA's property manager.
The portion not paid by the tenant is paid with a housing subsidy by the Orange County Housing Authority, Adams-Brown said.
O'Briant has lived at Club Nova apartments for six years. Without them, he's not sure where he could live, he said.
He works as a volunteer and "professional eyewitness," watching the door at the Club Nova thrift shop next to the apartments.
"I love it. I'm not a young man anymore, and right here I can go anywhere I've got to go," he said.
Ophelia Lee has lived at Club Nova for three years and says the central location and convenience make it a great place to live.
CASA is making improvements to the apartments, replacing her leaking shower, she said. Without the help, she's not sure where she would live.
"I'd have to find a place I couldn't afford," she said.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton thanked CASA on Friday and called Club Nova an "essential institution" in town.
"It's a fantastic resource that our community could have lost," he said.
The apartments are a testament to Carrboro's inclusiveness and care for people with disabilities, he said.
Providing and maintaining affordable housing for people with disabilities is an essential government service, said state Rep. Verla Insko.
CASA owns and manages 300 apartment units throughout the Triangle, including 54 apartments in Orange County. The average CASA tenant earns $8,000 a year and pays $178 per month in rent.
The group is also building two 10-unit apartment complexes funded by local, state and federal dollars for homeless disabled veterans in Wake and Durham counties.
Durham's new $1.3 million building will be located along Guess Road near Northgate Mall and is expected to open early next year.
The Raleigh complex will be the first apartments for homeless veterans in Wake County.