Do you wish housing was more affordable? You are not alone. Many homeowners and renters alike struggle to keep up in today’s market. With prices rising, it can be hard to maintain a home, pay bills and buy necessities such as food and fuel. Thankfully, the Home Share Program from Senior Services for South Sound provides a creative solution. This program connects Home Seekers with Home Providers, helping seniors remain independent at home for as long as possible. Both Seekers and Providers benefit from sharing costs and household responsibilities.

senior services for south sound building
Senior Services for South Sound offers dozens of free and low-cost activities to seniors in the community each quarter, from theater to Zumba, watercolor painting to writing workshops. Photo credit: Rebecca Hutchinson

Anyone 18 or older can apply to be a Seeker or Provider whether they own or rent a home, however, at least one person from each match must be a senior. Home Share is meant to be a semi-permanent arrangement, with some matches staying together for nine months, a year, or even several years. “It’s a solution for those who can’t afford to rent a place on their own, buy a home, or are being priced out of their apartments,” says Rebecca Hutchinson, Home Share program manager. It can be a stepping stone to save money while helping someone maintain housing, and can last as long as both parties need. “It’s not emergency housing. Making matches takes time. If someone is currently homeless or imminently homeless, we are always encouraging people to come up with an emergency plan.” At this time, there is a greater need for Home Providers.

Senior Services for South Sound has been around since 1973, improving the quality of life for people as they age by offering a wide range of programs for seniors and their families. They also provide dozens of activities at both of their locations, the Virgil Clarkson Lacey Senior Center and the Olympia Senior Center. Each year they impact the lives of over 11,000 local seniors and envision, “A South Sound where people are empowered and engaged in the community as they age, valued for their wisdom and experience, and have a positive sense of self-worth.”

Within the Home Share Program, each party agrees upon a level of support, dependent on each person’s needs. Some Providers are willing to reduce the rent in exchange for services provided by the Home Seeker. Often, participants are looking for a fair split of monthly payments, transportation, help with household tasks, meal prep or pet care. “We want providers to be pretty specific about what they need and how often,” adds Rebecca. “Being really clear helps to eliminate issues in the future.” Program Managers know the importance of setting boundaries and expectations early on to foster longevity and success. On top of the logistical conveniences this program can provide, there is also the benefit of companionship in isolating times.

Patty and Inge standing in their home share
Patty and Inge were matched up through the Home Share Program and now enjoy each other’s company, including going to lunch a couple times a week. Photo credit: Rebecca Hutchinson

Sharing expenses also means housing is more affordable and easier to maintain. Many participants enjoy the financial security provided by the program. Because costs are shared, they can save money, build up a nest egg, or pay down debts. Before matches are made, all applicants have references checked and thorough background checks conducted. From there, they do long entrance interviews, explains Rebecca. “This helps us get to know every applicant really well, and then we can start connecting people.” The lifestyles and needs of applicants are considered in each case and help determine possible matches.

Once matched, Providers and Seekers have a responsibility to meet and spend time getting to know each other. “We have conversation guides that we give folks so they can pinpoint all the really important topics that they should be discussing,” Rebecca shares. Then, they either confirm or deny compatibility. “My rule of thumb is that folks’ worldviews don’t have to be completely aligned to be a good match, but they shouldn’t be in conflict. We certainly could be matching people from very different walks of life, and they can enrich each other’s lives in that way.”

Lake view from the Virgil Clarkson Lacey Senior Center, one of two Senior Services for South Sound locations. The other is located in historic downtown Olympia. Keep up to date on activities, speakers, and classes by signing up for their monthly newsletter. Photo credit: Rebecca Hutchinson

Rebecca recommends home sharing to anybody who is having a hard time maintaining their home either functionally, financially or both. Senior Services for South Sound charges a $35 application fee and a one-time $50 fee per match for Home Providers. As stated above, Providers determine the amount of the financial contribution, and both parties must agree to those terms.

Are you interested in applying for or learning more about the Home Share program? You can fill out a Provider or Seeker application or an inquiry form for more information. Alternatively, you can contact Rebecca Hutchinson, Home Share Program Manager, at 360.586.6181 ext. 111, or via email at rhutchinson@southsoundseniors.org.


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