AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Augusta’s first tiny home village will be on the grounds of a former city park and the small village is expected to have a big impact.
The project is coming to life now, but Jackson Drumgoole says it really started 40 years ago, when he saw several family members go through the foster care system as a kid.
“So as a teenager I saw that suffering, and throughout the years I saw the level of abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse in some cases. I found out that they never recovered, and that end I’ve never forgotten. So as I’ve gotten a little older, I determined it was time for me to do something about it,” said Drumgoole.
He is the founder and executive director of Bridge Builder Communities, which is a nonprofit that provides housing, education, and vital resources to 18-25 year olds that are aging out of the system.
Drumgoole says the numbers for this age group are staggering. “Typically when kids age out of foster care, 80% of them have some form of mental illness due to adverse childhood experiences,” said Drumgoole. “But 71% of young women who age out of foster care become pregnant by the time they’re 21.”
According to Drumgoole, 65 percent of kids that are in sex trafficking come out of foster care. In addition, he says 46-55% of the kids who come out of foster care become homeless almost instantly.
Realizing the need to help young adults coming out of foster care, along with watching his family go through the same struggle, it motivated him to push the project forward.
“That’s the importance of our community. By putting that community of care and equal system of excellence together–where we provide that counseling and scaffolding–that supports helping them transition successfully into adulthood,” said Drumgoole.
The $2.5 Million project will have 25 tiny homes for those kids aging out of the foster care system. Once complete, the complex will have a community center, a vegetable garden, and 5 pods, with 5 homes in each pod. Each home will cost $50,000. They will be 320-square-feet, and each one will have it’s own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.
District 1 Commissioner Jordan Johnson helped get the city’s tiny home ordinance passed. He says providing these houses to the children will also help the city’s homeless problem. “There’s a substantial number of youth who fit this category, and I feel like it’s our responsibility to provide quality housing for them. Not just foster youth, but veterans, teachers, firefighters, police officers. Whoever needs the options for affordable housing, I feel like it’s our responsibility to a degree to help fill that gap,” said Johnson.
Johnson adds that to him, the lack of housing is the number one issue the city of Augusta is facing, but having this complex will certainly help. “Tiny homes are an alternative that many governments have explored, and I’m just excited because Augusta went down this road with us,” said Johnson. “We passed the ordinance, and now you’re seeing the fruit of that.”
Drumgoole says the organization is a quarter of the way towards meeting that 2.5-million-dollar goal. Though more money is needed, he says once the project is finished, it will be huge for the children, and the city. “It’ll show the world that Augusta cares. Augusta is more than just a golf tournament. We’re a bigger city with a bigger heart for the greater community, and we can build bridges to brighter solutions, and a brighter future for everyone,” said Drumgoole.
Commissioner Johnson says this is a step in the right direction for the city as well. “I think that tells a message that Augusta is serious about creating opportunities for affordable housing for whoever may need that option,” said Johnson.
Drumgoole says they will have a capital campaign event next month, and he hopes to get halfway to their goal by that point.
The tiny home village will break ground in mid-2024, and Drumgoole hopes it will be complete by the end of next year.