Homeshare enables two unrelated people to share a home and their lives for their mutual benefit. Though anyone can arrange a live-in companion for themselves, homeshare ‘matches’ are skilfully managed by homeshare programmes, run by professionals.
A householder, usually an older person with a spare room, offers free or low-cost accommodation to another person in exchange for an agreed level of support. The homesharer may provide:
- household tasks
- taking the householder to medical appointments
- care of pets and, increasingly,
- help to use the computer.
Homeshare provides a solution to the needs of two groups of people – those in need of affordable housing, often younger people, and those in need of some support to live independently at home, usually older people.
The first homeshare match in the UK shows how homeshare can benefit the people who take part.
Josie, in her mid-70s, was referred to a homeshare programme by a hospital after a stroke severely affected her behaviour. The hospital was keen to discharge her if home support could be arranged. She was found a perfect match in Trevor, a young working man who needed accommodation and who handled Josie’s erratic ways with great diplomacy. Soon Josie adored him like a grandson and, keen to cook for him, regained all her independence skills. Trevor stayed with her for three years by which time Josie was well enough to live alone again.
Read more case studies in a wonderful book by a French programme, ensemble2générations : www.calameo.com/read/00430765775a78377d449
A win-win solution – who benefits and how
Homeshare was originally set up to benefit older people who needed support to live independently but the concept is very flexible and can be adapted to meet local needs and circumstances. Homeshare is directly benefiting many people across the globe, including:
- people with disabilities or support needs, of all ages
- single parents who need help with child care
- students who need low-cost accommodation
- young people and key workers (such as nurses, police officers, teachers) who are priced out of the housing market.
The direct benefits to older/disabled people include help with daily living, companionship and the security of having someone in the house, especially at night. There are even recorded instances of homesharers saving lives; for example a German homesharer called the emergency services when the householder had a heart attack.
Homesharers benefit directly by saving money on rent. Their room may be completely free of charge, or they may pay a modest rental well below commercial rates. In mainland Europe homeshare programmes have mainly enabled students to live cheaply and comfortably. In the UK, Australia and other countries homesharers are mainly young professionals who cannot afford decent housing in expensive cities like London and Melbourne.
Other benefits include breaking down the barriers between generations and different cultures, fostering mutual understanding and tolerance. For instance, in an Australian programme, an elderly Jewish lady successfully shared her home with a Pakistani Muslim homesharer.
Others benefit indirectly from homeshare. Families of older people speak of the reassurance that their loved one has someone in the house, looking after their security and welfare. Families of young homesharers say they feel reassured that their son/daughter has decent accommodation and a surrogate parent/ grandparent to take an interest in their lives.
Public services benefit too. Homeshare can delay the need for costly services such as residential care for older people. Homeshare is helping ease the housing crisis in places such as south east England where there is an acute shortage of affordable housing.
Read more about:
- homeshare programmes and how they work
- homeshare and the public policy agenda
- the history of homeshare
- how to be a homesharer