INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to purpose-driven organizations and passionate leaders and entrepreneurs who are making an impact in their communities and industries.
Alison L. Joucovsky is the Executive Director of Sunshine Home Share Colorado. Learn more at Sunshinehomeshare.org.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Seniors with an empty bedroom rent to individuals needing an affordable place to live and price the rent in accordance with hours of additional services or companionship provided. Staff help the Home Provider and Home Seeker create a Living Together Contact so expectations of chores, companionship, and supports are agreed upon prior to living together. Home Sharing increases the Home Providers access to transportation, improves home upkeep, decreases social isolation, relieves caregiver burden, increases economic security, and creates affordable housing using existing housing stock.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Sunshine Home Share Colorado is a program developed to assist seniors in their ability to age in place by increasing their network of support. Through community collaborations and partnerships, we increase community access to affordable housing by utilizing existing housing stock.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
According to AARP 90% of seniors want to remain in their homes, but currently in the Denver metro area the supportive infrastructure is not in place. From the 2010 Census data there are currently 200,000 single family homeowners over the age of 65 in a five county radius living in single family residences. The medium income for a female over 65 in Denver is $23,405 and $29,855 for men. Our seniors are moderate to low income and struggling or can’t afford to pay for the services needed to support their ability to remain in their homes. There is currently a shortage in Denver County of 22,000 affordable housing units for people living below the American Medium Income (AMI). People are finding themselves in a range of inadequate housing and lack of supportive services, characterized by poor economics, housing condition, and quality all of which correlates with health problems. Low-income people with difficulty paying rent or utility bills or for supportive services are less likely to have medical care, more likely to postpone treatment, more likely to use the emergency department, and often struggle with anxiety and depression due to economic insecurity. High housing costs are forcing seniors to sacrifice spending on food and medication, which undermines their health and well-being. Lack of transportation impacts their ability to get to the grocery store and the doctor, and seniors without cars are at higher risk for isolation and subsequent depression. Home Sharing allows seniors to maintain their independence and quality of life, increase their opportunity to engage with the community and support their ability to age in place. Home Sharing thoughtfully builds intergenerational relationships allowing home seekers to benefit from the life experience of the home provider in a symbiotic relationship.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
Everyday we receive phone calls from seniors who either can’t maintain their home, but want to age in place, or seniors who have been forced to sleep in their cars due to the high cost of rent. It is dire and we are in a housing crisis. It is imperative to think about our aging services differently, how we provide services, how we can use our communities and existing resources keeping me motivated. If we do not think about aging services differently and start using community based models and existing resources, we will never be able meet the expanding needs of our senior population as the numbers of older adults only continues to grow. In our current system there are more than 1,100 seniors on waiting lists for in home supportive services. Home sharing meets those needs, and is cutting-edge.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
We are in a year one demonstration project, hoping to make 10 matches lasting 6 months to one year. Our hope is to become a sustainable, viable housing solution with enough staff and resources to meet the needs of the community. We want to have people thinking about aging and our solutions to the problem differently. We want home sharing to have a seat at the table when ever there is a discussion of affordable housing and aging services solutions.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
As a new nonprofit, funding is the major challenge. The home sharing model does not conveniently fit into typical funding boxes for senior services or affordable housing and we are finding foundations hesitant take a volunteer model to a paid staffing and volunteer model. Sunshine is collecting data, but just in the starting phase. Based on the research of the six programs across the US, we know the home sharing model works.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Small startups or large organizations have the same needs for skills and staffing. You need to find the support of amazing volunteers bringing professional skills to your agency. You cannot do this alone, and you need people who believe in your mission and want to help. A working board is crucial and you need to cultivate enthusiasm and support for your organization in the community.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
When you are having discussions about the housing crisis or lack of affordable aging services make home sharing part of the conversation. We are happy to present to your organizations and community groups. If you are worried about an elderly neighbor, think about home sharing as a solution. Please consider making a small donation at sunshinehomeshare.org. These small donations can help us big make a big impact.