“The time has come!” declared Malcolm Johnson, Chairman of Homeshare International, in his welcome and introductions to delegates at the First International HomeShare Congress. In a world with a growing elderly population living alone, and with housing prices trending higher, it simply makes sense to match older householders with younger renters who can offer help with daily tasks in exchange for housing. Shared housing for seniors can be a solution to many growing problems in society.
Delegates to the congress came from England, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the United States, and Australia. All are working on developing homeshare programs, but the programs are quite different. Some are only to help elderly and disabled. Other programs are open to matching people of all ages. One program in the United States works specifically to help the homeless find housing. Some programs are for profit, but most are not for profit. Some are funded by the government. In Australia, this year, for the first time, the Victorian State budget has funds to support homeshare programs. In France and in Germany, steps toward homeshare funding by government entities are being taken.
A common theme was the difficulty of making good matches. It takes time and effort. The older generation is not used to the idea of sharing their home, hence there are often fewer householders offering housing in exchange for help than there are younger people interested in living rent-free. It may be that the baby boomer generation will be more open to the idea of homeshare than the World War II generation is. Questions were raised about how to market homeshare and whether it would be better to have homeshare matching be more like a dating service (Harmony.com?) than the very personal and time-intensive matching system used by most of the agencies.
Delegates told stories of relationships between the householder and the caregiver in which both people were changed by their relationship “ their worlds made richer by the reciprocity of giving inherent in the homeshare arrangement.
Despite the difficulties cited, the delegates are committed to the concept of homeshare. It is a simple idea that the world needs.