Reporter

Opening hearts and homes: New program to help struggling seniors find roommates

A senior citizen receives food through the Osceola Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program. A new council program called Hearts and HomeSharing is a new one-on-one matching service that connects older residents who have an extra room in their homes with those in need of housing.

Roommates aren’t just for college kids and twentysomethings anymore.

A new program through the Osceola Council on Aging is making it easier for seniors to stay in their own homes by connecting them with eligible, pre-screened roommates.

Hearts and HomeSharing is a new one-on-one matching service that connects older residents who have an extra room in their homes with those in need of housing.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Wendy Ford, director of housing and finance at the Council on Aging. “It’s a program that helps two people who both need some assistance.”

Senior citizens who collect Social Security or disability often make between $750 and $800 a month, and it can be difficult finding housing in that price range, Ford said.

“HomeSharing can open up a different world,” she said. “It’s a viable option that allows them to supplement their income.”

A solution to affordable

housing crisis?

Hearts and HomeSharing is doing more than helping seniors – local government is hoping it can help solve an on-going affordable housing crisis, too.

County staff approached the Council on Aging last year and asked if they could research roommate match programs in other communities.  

The results proved promising.

“It turns out to be a very affordable solution to a lack of affordable housing,” Ford explained. “You don’t have to spend millions of dollars building new high-density housing. You just need to find an efficient way of matching people who already have rooms with those who need them.”

The program also aims to provide supportive, wrap around follow-up services to successful matches. If two applicants pass a one-month trial period and chose to enter a lease together, the council will continue to offer check-ups to make sure the living situation still works over time, Ford said.

A year of government funding

The county set aside money in its new annual budget on Oct. 1 for Hearts and HomeSharing. Government funds will allow the council to pay for administrative and support services costs for at least a year.

The program is just getting off the ground, but the council has already set a goal of creating about 45 matches – or 90 individuals - by October 2019, with the first ones taking place early next month.

How to apply and other details

Applying for the program is easy. It requires a $10 money order for each applicant along with a copy of one’s driver license, Social Security card, proof of income and proof of homeownership. No credit checks will be conducted for applicants.

The $10 fee helps the Council on Aging cover the cost of a national criminal and sex offender background screening, Ford said.  

Each applicant will then be placed on a waiting list while staff will work to match providers with potential renters.  

For more information about Hearts and HomeSharing, contact Program Coordinator Elizabeth Guiets at gueitse@osceola-coa.com or call 407-892-9027.