Home Share Program Links Seniors with Savings, Companionship

Suzy Hopkins
By Suzy Hopkins March 15, 2010 18:04

Think of it as a matchmaking service – minus the romance. Instead of love and marriage, the goals are cost cutting and companionship.

Popular elsewhere in the nation, home sharing has arrived in the foothills. A new grant-funded program of Catholic Charities aims to match “providers” – those with a room to spare or who need household help – with “seekers” who need affordable housing.

The program, operating from the nonprofit’s Mono Village office, serves both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. The effort is modeled after San Mateo County’s Human Investment Project, started in 1972 and now one of the largest such programs in the nation.

Home sharing typically involves unrelated people who maintain private rooms while sharing a common living area. Arrangements vary widely. A homeowner may rent a spare room for extra cash, or in exchange for services such as house or property upkeep. A very elderly person may be able to stay in their home with help from a younger tenant.  Or, two seniors may decide to home share as a way to save money and curb loneliness.

“Our grant is aimed at assisting the elderly, so when we put two people together, one must be 60 or older,” says Jim Sells, program coordinator. “Because we have a high ratio of senior citizens in the mountain counties, and our income levels are relatively low, we think this program will be very useful to people.”

Those 60-something Boomers might balk at the term “elderly,” but the benefits of shared living might make them think twice. Says Sells: “This is something that’s really needed – particularly with this economy – and will be needed more and more as Baby Boomers get older.”

Catholic Charities’ free program works like this:

  • Applicants first complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle, likes and dislikes, what they want from a home share, how much they need for rent or can afford to pay, and what other chores or household upkeep may be involved
  • The information goes into a database that predicts compatible matches
  • The would-be home provider reviews those matches and can then request contact with a specific home seeker

Sells and trained volunteers will help with negotiations and contracts as needed to ensure “an equitable agreement,” Sells says. “It has to be a win-win for both.”

All applicants must provide references and will be fingerprinted to screen for criminal history. Further protections for potentially vulnerable elders will include periodic calls and visits once the home share begins.

Contact Sells at Catholic Charities, 532-7632. Online, visit ccstockton.org, or nationalsharedhousing.org.

Suzy Hopkins
By Suzy Hopkins March 15, 2010 18:04
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