Home share program supports people in need of affordable rent
Last updated 3/15/2022 at 7:23pm
Kimberly Bolding would not be able to afford her house payments on her own. Being disabled also makes living alone challenging.
But finding roommates at random can be a gamble, and sometimes it didn't work out so well for her.
That's where a program called Sunshine Home Share came in and found Bolding a perfect match – complete with background checks on all parties, ongoing support from case workers, even a two-week trial period to ensure the roommates were compatible.
"It's a win-win," she said.
Sunshine Home Share Colorado is a nonprofit that helps older adults share the space in their homes trading help with in-home services such as yard work, snow shoveling or transportation. With staff support, the program provides income to the homeowners while providing affordable housing to people in need of a roof over their heads.
"Home sharing is a great way to earn income, decrease isolation, and access in-home services," Executive Director Alison Joucovsky said.
Sunshine recently received funding from El Paso County Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) and is working to expand its service territory in this region. Last year, Teresa Ornelas, Sunshine's Colorado Springs Home Share Coordinator, made seven matches there.
"We started in 2020 – not a great time to get a new program off the ground – with a partnership grant with the Area Agency on Aging funded by the Next-Fifty Foundation," Joucovsky said. "We were subcontracted by the AAA to start the program. That grant ended in 2022 and we received funding from the Next-Fifty Foundation and the city of Colorado Springs along with Myron Stratton and Chapman Foundations to move into year two. In October 2021, we received the El Paso County CDBG grant to expand into the rural areas, so it really is just getting started outside of the Colorado Springs metro area."
Sunshine also serves the entire Denver metro area. Southern El Paso County is likely as far as the program will expand to the south, Joucovsky said, although a program like this could benefit many areas.
"We have had inquiries from other counties," she said. "We know this is a statewide need."
The CDBG funding from the county is fundamental to Sunshine's success, as it supports the ongoing caseworker to assist program participants.
Without the continued CDBG funding, we would not be able to keep our staff working in the area," Joucovsky said. "This is what is paying for her time and mileage. I am hoping they give us one more year to really get it going since we just got the funding in October and it really takes time to get a program off of the ground."
Social workers spend 20-24 hours of care management supporting a match and screening before they even move in together. Home seekers don't need great credit, but they do need a clean background check, verifiable income, and three years' sobriety.
"We also make sure to connect to other services and resources that may be needed," Joucovsky said. "Sometimes home sharing is a piece of what people need and we have a to help with the whole puzzle. Aging in community can be complex, and sometimes the home providers are really just needing income."
According to Sunshine, the economic impact of a home-sharing match has far-reaching financial cost-saving outcomes, making this a cost-effective solution for both health care and affordable housing. The trading of in-home services and earning rental income is about $7,440 per year for home providers. Home seekers are saving on average $10,440 per year in rent when living in a home-sharing match.
On average, home seekers complete five hours of work a week for the home providers. Some do closer to 20 hours, while some do none. Typically, the more service exchange a home seeker is willing to do, the cheaper the rent will be.
For the last two years the program's average rent has been $400 a month, but rents range from $0-$900. Home providers set the rent, and Sunshine staff members facilitate conversations about rent reduction due to service exchange.
In most cases, matches are made for individuals; however, there are some couples that participate when the home has room.
Bolding – a resident of Southeast Colorado Springs – is the program's southernmost participant to date. Bolding, who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy called myasthenia gravis, was matched with Samuel Seat, who is deaf and new to town, several months ago. Another roommate, John Vastine, is a recovering cancer patient who joined the household two years ago. All three are on Social Security disability.
Bolding said the situation has been mutually beneficial for all of them, and it has helped meet the eight dimensions of well-being: emotional, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and financial.
She's also been pleased with the precautions in place during the application process and two-week trial period, calling it a "built-in safety net."
Bolding explained that in her experience, some roommates become quite close and develop a long-lasting sense of community.
"We've managed to create a family," she said.
Sunshine is looking for home owners and home seekers in the Fountain Valley area. The easiest way to apply is online at Sunshinehomeshare.org. You may also call (719) 744-3911 and request a paper application by mail.