Sandy Kerr turned the corner into her 70’s facing bone cancer and was forced to step back from her business. When health challenges brought financial twists and turns, Sandy’s siblings pitched in. She was making it through just fine. But Sandy didn’t want to lean on them for too long, so she was intrigued when a friend from church passed along a newspaper clipping about something called home sharing.
A year later Sandy and I talked by speakerphone, joined by Sandy’s new housemate, Ashley Epps, and social worker Devera Larson, LCSW. I was sitting in my 1950’s easy chair, awash in the ebullience coming through from their end of the line. “Hold on a sec,” I interrupted, sitting up “Who made that last comment about keeping things up-to-date?” Zoom had failed us, so we went old school.
Sandy, Ashley, and Devera went on to explain how they met each other through Sunshine Home Share Colorado.
Homeowners 55 and older contact Sunshine Home Share and connect with a social worker to discuss needs that can be met through sharing their home. In addition to rental income, this can include anything from light housekeeping or rides, to yard work or dog walking.
According to Sunshine Home Share, 90% of seniors want to remain in their homes, while 70% will need some sort of support to do it. An estimated 200,000 single family homes across Denver are occupied by folks over 65 who likely have available space. When you set this data alongside the shortage of affordable housing, it’s easy to see the potential that home sharing presents.
For home seekers, an arrangement like the one Devera facilitated between Sandy and Ashley offers stability during uncertain times.
Ashley, 32, relocated from South Carolina to Denver for a job that was filled by the time she arrived. She was left scrambling for both a job and a place to live, and even ended up leaning on shelters for a period of time. Before too long, though, she found a stable job and was eager to do the same for housing. Ashley was picking up the phone to talk to Devera around the same time Sandy received the tip from her church friend.
Devera set them both at ease, helping each navigate the thorough vetting process. By the time Sandy and Ashley met in person, the two had supplied references and gone through background checks and a long list of “deal breaker” compatibility questions. Sunshine Home Share Executive Director Alison Joucovsky, MA, LPC, reports that it takes 18-35 hours of social work time—up to 8 weeks—for each match.
For Ashley and Sandy, it was well worth the investment. Ashley says, “Get to know the person. Take time. Don’t jump into the boat before you know if it has holes.”
In their case, Devera uncovered that each woman was fueled by a strong spiritual foundation. This commonality has blossomed into the beautifully deep connection I could hear in their voices. And while both were also open to companionship, each is also very independent.
And both believe in taking time to “keep things up-to-date,” talking through concerns as they come up, instead of putting them off.
When I asked Joucovsky how someone knows if the program is right for them, the answer was easy: they just know.
Is home sharing for you? Give Sunshine Home Share Colorado a call at (303) 915-8264 or visit www.sunshinehomeshare.org
Stay tuned to The Gray Zone for more about the living arrangements older adults in the neighborhood are drawn to these days.
Kathryn has lived in North Denver since around the time the Mount Carmel High School building was razed and its lot at 3600 Zuni became Anna Marie Sandoval Elementary. She’s raised two children in the neighborhood, worked at several nonprofits, and facilitates a Caregiver Support Group for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.
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