There’s another side of homelessness on the North Coast besides illegal encampments in the forest and people panhandling on street corners.
Some of those “other” potentials for homelessness will be discussed at an informational HomeShareSLO workshop at the Cambria Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St., set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9.
Here’s a hint: If you have a room you’re not using, or you want to share a home with somebody, you could be part of the HomeShareSLO solution that could help extend the independence of elders who want to remain in their own homes, and provide housing for responsible people who need it.
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“Community Connections for Aging in Place” will give potential homesharers and their family members details on how the process works. Services provided include: help with setting up the room-sharing arrangement in the home; background screening of all applicants; making suitable matches; helping establish house rules to ensure privacy; sample agreements for living together; ongoing monitoring of the match; and planning for the time when the match may end.
The matches provide the homeowner with extra income, companionship, security, shared resources and the ability to expand their social network and stay in their own homes.
Speakers and their topics include: Linda Beck, “Extending Elders’ Independence,” and former Cambria resident/business owner Anne Wyatt, who served as chairwoman of the North Coast Advisory Council and a county planning commissioner, “Why Homeshare?”
Who are the people who may be most at risk?
Among them are:
▪ The senior citizen who doesn’t want to live alone.
▪ The widow who can no longer afford — or maintain — the big home she shared for years with her spouse.
▪ The young mother struggling to work, go to school and make ends meet.
▪ The couple working four or five jobs between them who still don’t make enough to rent affordable housing, if there was indeed any affordable housing available on the North Coast.
Alone, those people could be on the brink of real homelessness, medical risk and/or pervasive loneliness, and local nonprofit HomeShareSLO wants to help.
The agency connects people and homes in this county, facilitating homeshare matches between those with an extra room and those looking for affordable housing.
HomeShareSLO operations director Celeste Goyer said in a series of email interviews that many of today’s seniors “are financially in good shape, but isolated, living alone in a larger home, facing reduced mobility and other challenges to maintaining a social network. The research now shows that the health risks of isolation in seniors are equal to the risk of smoking or obesity — it’s serious — and we see it so often with our clients.”
HomeShareSLO currently has two provider clients in Cambria, she said, “both single senior women who own homes and want to stay in them as long as they can. Their homes are beautiful, one on Lodge Hill and one by Moonstone Beach, and they are expensive to maintain on fixed incomes. Their homes are assets, and sharing a room is a way to make that asset work for them, and bring in income.”
Goyer estimated that renting an average room can bring in $7,000 to $9,000 a year.
She listed some other benefits of homesharing that appeal to seniors, such as “the added security of having someone else under the roof, having a little help with regular chores that have become difficult (like taking out the trash cans), and giving peace of mind to their families, who may live far away and worry about their parent living alone.”
At previous Cambria gatherings and individual client meetings, Goyer said HomeShareSLO coordinators have talked to “young single mothers and young working singles” who “have jobs in Cambria but can’t afford to rent their own place. For many people in San Luis Obispo County — with low average wages and some of the highest housing costs in the state — sharing has become one of the few options available to them.
“Cambria is such a nurturing, safe place for retired single women seeking a haven,” Goyer said, “but that does no good if they can’t afford housing.”