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Support for Seniors – The Columbus Cottage Program

Thursday Apr 9, 2015 - Comments: 0


In anticipation of the upcoming Symposium on Planning Today, Thriving Tomorrow: Housing and Community Innovations for an Aging America at the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Kansas City, we are featuring an inspiring ‘Aging-in-Place’ project from member affiliate NeighborWorks Columbus (GA).  



“My grandmother, she … told me always do right, some good will come to me … She told me that,” said an emotional Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins as she sat on her porch.  Jenkins, a retired housekeeper in her early 80s, was responding to being awarded a house through the Columbus Cottage Program, an initiative that provides deserving elderly Columbus, Georgia residents with newly constructed, high quality homes. 


The Columbus Cottage Program is a public/private partnership that is part of NeighborWorks Columbus’ (GA) portfolio of services.  The program targets seniors with limited means who are living in homes that are severely distressed, and who have little or no ability or outside support to make needed repairs.  Once chosen, these residents are temporarily relocated while their old homes are torn down, and brand new cottages are built in their place, allowing residents to stay on property they may have lived on for decades. 


The homes are also established as life estates that terminate upon the death of the recipient, at which point they become the property of NeighborWorks Columbus (GA), ready to be passed along to other eligible elderly, disabled, or homeless Columbus citizens, ensuring that the good will and charity that went into rebuilding the homes is paid forward.    


The idea for the program materialized when neighbors of an elderly woman named Joceil Smith reached out to the City Inspections Department after residents became increasingly concerned with Smith’s poor living conditions.  A visit to her home verified its derelict state, prompting Rebecca Wiggins – former City of Columbus Director of Inspections – to share Joceil’s story with Cathy Williams – the Executive Director of NW Columbus (GA) - and from this, the Columbus Cottage Program was born.      


Since Joceil Smith moved into her new home, six new cottages have been constructed and more are planned for the future.  Recipients are both men and women, and include retired housekeepers, custodians, cab and truck drivers, mechanics, and military veterans. 


It’s an inspirational example of people looking after those who have lived, worked, and contributed to the life of their communities for years. 


What do you think of the Columbus Cottage Program?  How do you look after the seniors in your community?


Click here to read about the Columbus Cottage Program, including vignettes that share stories about the lives of Cottage recipients. 


Photo of Mary Alice Cooper Jenkins, Courtesy of the Columbus Cottage Program


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