Atascadero resident Henry Trosset is an 88-year-old retiree who worked for Pan-American World Airways for 30 years. Up until this summer, he felt lonely, living all by himself for four years in his rural North County home.
So far, Trosset’s match with 72-year-old renter Janet Stanley has gelled wonderfully, she says. Stanley, a former San Diego hospital membership services manager, moved to the county to be closer to two children in Atascadero.
Sharing the same home since June, they’ve have settled into a comfortable roommate routine, chatting for hours.
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“He’s a very interesting man,” Stanley said. “Our backgrounds are very different. He literally has been around the world, to so many places. He’s really fun to talk to. ”
How the program works
HomeShareSLO, established in 2016, consists of three staff members and eight advisory board members. They began taking clients in 2017.
The program serves to help isolated local residents, who may be looking for companionship or extra monthly income, connect with those looking for housing.
The service matches housemates by reviewing applications for ability to pay rent and homesharing compatibility. HomeShareSLO also conducts criminal background checks of applicants.
We hope to help serve a growing housing need. We’ve seen the model work in more than 60 organizations nationwide, but nothing like this was in place in SLO County.
Anne Wyatt, HomeShareSLO program coordinator
The housing is often rented at a below-market rate, on a month-to-month basis, typically ranging from $575 to $800 per month. Often comparable county rentals are $800 to $1,000 per month, and higher for studios and one-bedrooms, coordinators say.
The program currently is serving 10 people in five households but aims to boost that number to serve 200 people in 100 households within a few years.
“We hope to help serve a growing housing need,” said Anne Wyatt, the program coordinator. “We’ve seen the model work in more than 60 organizations nationwide, but nothing like this was in place in SLO County.”
An unmet need
Wyatt said the organization’s research shows that 11,000 single seniors live in the county, including about 7,700 women. Wyatt said about 2,000 of them are “overhoused,” meaning they have at least one extra bedroom.
Most seniors take in between around $1,000 to $1,500 per month in Social Security income, which can make for tight budgets without other supplementary income.
Home seekers must pay a $100 application fee, and home providers are required to give the organization the first month’s rent as program fees.
HomeShareSLO coordinators have visited senior centers around the county to spread the word. Celeste Goyer, HomeShareSLO’s operations director, said the program provides the comfort of helping people find safe, suitable matches. They review criteria that includes whether participants have pets, smoke, and prefer more privacy or companionship.
“Less than half of our clients have ever shared a home with a nonfamily member,” Goyer said. “Many aren’t online. They can’t go to Craigslist and list a room. So what we do is help them find appropriate housemates.”
Some of the matches place seniors with younger tenants, or retirees with working people.
Beth Wallace, 66, a Grover Beach homeowner, is a retired social services worker. Through the program, she rents out her home to Nancy Gerdes, a 59-year-old working drug and alcohol counselor. Wallace has a chihuahua, and Gerdes has two desert tortoises.
“I’m kind of a loner, so I have the house to myself during the day when she’s working, so that works out well,” Wallace said. “But we do enjoy each other’s company. At the end of the day, we’ll sit down and talk about what was good and what was bad. That’s a really nice way to connect.”
For more information about the program, go to homeshareslo.org or call 215-5474.
Find out more
On Thursday at 1:30 pm, HomeShareSLO and SLO Village will be co-hosting a free informational tea gathering at the SLO Senior Center at 1445 Santa Rosa St. “Community Connections for Aging in Place” will feature patient advocate Linda Beck speaking on “Extending Elder Independence” with lots of practical tips and resources for seniors and their families — followed by a panel discussion with the founders of HomeShareSLO and SLO Village. Tea and refreshments will be served.