I'm 98... it doesn't matter!

Story by Joel Rhodes serving with Home Share Now

What is 'Home Share'? This is something that I have had to explain every day since I began my service with Home Share Now, headquartered in Barre. It is a simple enough concept; a home owner has an extra bedroom that they are willing to open up to someone else in exchange for either services or money or a combination of both. To the general public, myself included prior to serving, home sharing isn't a common phrase or model.

After ten months of serving with Home Share Now, I have learned more than I could have expected. I learned about the workings of small non-profits, issues with surrounding housing, and the emerging sharing economy. I quickly recognized the need for creative, thoughtful, and affordable housing; not to mention how home sharing serves to protect the landscape by alleviating the need for new housing development. I moved here as an outsider, and it truly has been a unique way to become familiar with central Vermont and a wide spectrum of Vermonters. Home Share Now provided me the opportunity to meet and work with folks of all demographics, backgrounds, stories, and values. I've visited over 25 homes ranging from mobile homes and picturesque farmhouses to large Victorian houses. I've also visited many senior centers, libraries, partnering organizations, and farmer's markets across Washington, Lamoille, and Orange Counties to meet people where they are and bring to them home sharing.

My service has proven to be hopeful and inspiring work. That being said, the nature of grassroots work is not always easy. There are days when I question whether or not the hours put in for each participant is worth it when there might not be an appropriate home share match. However, I believe when an organization's efforts may not always prove immediately or tangibly beneficial, they are actions that plant a seed and can become fruitful in the future.

One of our recent home share stories makes the staff's efforts worth every moment. The home provider was having trouble pronouncing the home seeker's name and settled on calling her "Daisy" (she was okay with that!). While these two home sharers come from very different places in life, they immediately bonded over simple things like freezing large batches of soup. One difference, however, is their specific food preferences, which could be a recipe for disaster in some living arrangements. When the home seeker asked the home provider why he doesn't care for the same food as her, he replied, "I'm 98... it doesn't matter!" She laughed, and with no way to respond to that she said, "Good point!"

Successful home shares require more than just flexibility; they also require a sense of humor. When people find common ground and laugh at their differences, it sets up the home share for success and happiness. Home shares improve the quality of life for everyone involved because it is a solution that meets each party's needs while building relationships and community. Many home providers responded that our program helped them to stay in their homes. Home providers and seekers said that it helped them save money. For other home seekers, it helped them to live where they wanted to.

Sharing is one of the first things that we are taught as children, but sharing becomes harder to practice as people age and feel pressure to own everything. For those who challenge themselves to move beyond the norm by sharing their living spaces, experience and receive more than just a roommate. They are offered the chance for a new companion, a helping hand, someone to ease their burdens and peace of mind.

Photo provided by Home Share Now; Home Share Now staff welcomes with a smile.

VHCB AmeriCorps is a program of the
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

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