Sharing Housing with International Guests, a Profitable Cultural Exchange

by Emma Jornlin

As the U.S.’ baby boomers age, most report wanting to remain in their homes, where they can be near their community. In 2009, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of adults 65 and older living in Baltimore, found that nine out of ten respondents own their own apartment or home and the majority are very satisfied with their living arrangements.However, many Americans also have dreams of traveling to other countries, something that can be difficult when you are weighed down by a mortgage. A plane ticket to France? Not very feasible when you are stuck with a $1200 mortgage.Homesharing, the idea of renting out a room in your home to a non-related individual, allows homeowners to gain a disposable source of income while participating in a cultural exchange.Maxine Hudley, one of our HomeProviders living in the Belair-Edison neighborhood, has had a positive experience sharing her home with people from other cultures. This past year, she hosted a woman from Ethiopia who spoke little English and couldn’t afford an apartment with her job at 7-11. Over the 16 months sharing her home with Tarik, Maxine earned $6000 in rental income. Tarik, in turn, saved an estimated $11,600 on rent by living with Maxine. The following is an excerpt of an interview Emma Jornlin, a LVC working in the Homesharing program this year, conducted with Maxine. St Ambrose: Why did you decide to share your home?

Maxine: I needed the additional funds. And the great thing about me is I have a big heart.

St. Ambrose: Shared housing, the idea of sharing housing with non-family members, is very popular in other countries. For example, if you study abroad in university anywhere from Germany to Ecuador, you will be invited to stay with a host family. Why do you think it’s less popular in the U.S.?

Maxine: Well, I didn’t know about it until a few years ago. I heard about it on the radio. Then I read this article about a woman sharing her home with a gentlemen and it really impressed me.

St. Ambrose: You’ve shared your home with a number of people from other cultures. How do you communicate when you don’t speak the same language?

Maxine: She (Tarik) had someone who could interpret for her. She would call them up. Also, even though we don’t speak the same language, there’s a million other ways to work things out. Like when she wasn’t locking the door, I couldn’t make myself understood verbally, so I’d take her to the door and show her how to lock it. And she would do the same thing with me. The mattress was lumpy and she took me to the bed to show me. So I went out and bought a new mattress—for both of my Homeseekers.

St. Ambrose: Would you recommend Homesharing to others?

Maxine: Yes. 100%.

 

… and now for our Spanish readersEn Español:Mientras los ‘baby boomers’ de los E.E.U.U. maduran, la mayoría reportan que ellos quieren quedarse en sus casa, donde ellos puedan estar cerca de sus comunidades. En 2009, el Pew Research Center, conducto una investigación de adultos de 65 de edad viviendo en Baltimore, encontrando que nuevo de los diez respondientes tienen su propio casa o apartamento y la mayoría están muy satisfechas con sus vivencias.Pero muchos estadounidenses también tienen un sueño de viajar a otros países, algo que puede ser difícil cuando tiene una hipoteca grande. ¿Un vuelo a Francia? No es muy viable cuando Ud. tiene una hipoteca de $1200.Homesharing, el idea de rentar un cuarto en su casa a una persona quien no es familia, permite que el dueño de la casa obtener un fuente de dinero disponible mientras participando en un intercambio cultural.Maxine Hudley, uno de nuestros dueños de casa viviendo en el barrio Belair, ha tenido una buena experiencia compartiendo su casa con una persona de otra cultura. Este ano pasado, a ella alojo una mujer de Ethiopia quien no hablaba mucho inglés y no podía afordar un apartamento con su trabajo en 7-11. En los 16 meses compartiendo su casa con Tarik, Maxine ganó $6000. Tarik guardo $11,600 en renta.St. Ambrose: ¿Por qué decidió Ud. compartir su casa?

Maxine: Yo necesitaba los fondos adicionales. Y lo bueno de mi es que tengo un gran corazón.

St. Ambrose: El idea de compartir una casa con otra persona quien no es familia es muy popular en otros países. Por ejemplo, si Ud. estudia en otro país por su universidad en Alemania hasta Ecuador, le van a invitar a Ud. quedarse con una familia. ¿Por qué piensa Ud. que este concepto no es tan popular en los EEUU?

Maxine: Pues, yo no conocía el concepto antes de unos años atrás. Yo oí un advertismo en el radio. Después, leí un artículo en el periódico de una mujer compartiendo su casa con un hombre y me impresiono mucho.

St. Ambrose: Ud. Ha compartido su casa con gente de otras culturas. ¿Cómo comunica ustedes cuando no hablan el mismo idioma?

Maxine: Ella (Tarik) tenía alguien para interpretar por ella. Les llamaba por el teléfono celular. También, aun cuando nosotros no hablamos el mismo idioma, hay un millón de otras maneras comunicar. Por ejemplo, cuando ella no estaba cerrando la puerta con candado, yo no podía explicarlo verbalmente, entonces yo le llevaría a la puerta y le mostraba como hacerlo. Y a ella hizo lo mismo conmigo. El cochón estaba lleno de grumos y a ella me llevo a la cama para mostrármelo. Y por eso, yo salí a comprar un nuevo cochón—para los dos Home Seekers.

St. Ambrose: ¿Ud. recomendaría Homesharing a otra gente?

Maxine: Sí. 100%.

 

 

For our Spanish readers, connect with Southeast CDC for help purchasing a home

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Homesharing: Connecting Compatible Roommates

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By Emma Jornlin

Homesharing is a great option for those who don’t want to live alone. Oftentimes individuals who come to St. Ambrose are looking for a roommate but, for various reasons, don’t want to live with family or close friends.

The benefits of Homesharing abound. On the Home Provider’s part, sharing your house can mean assistance with household expenses, receiving help with chores or, as a recent article in the Chicago Tribune mentioned, just having someone with whom to watch Dancing with the Stars!

On the Home Seeker’s part, moving in with a Home Provider in Baltimore City/County can mean obtaining affordable housing while having the opportunity to share in someone lifestyle or culture—even being welcomed into the family. One of our Home Providers introduces Home Seekers to her grandkids when they visit. Another invites her Homesharers upstairs for Friday night dinners.

For those who don’t like the idea of having to greet someone before they’ve had their coffee or navigating someone  shower schedule, private baths and entrances are available for a slightly higher price than the average $450-500/month.

Our goal at St. Ambrose is to match people based on personality and preferences so that our Home Owners find the right person to share their home and our Home Seekers feel genuinely welcome there.

Here is an overview of our process:

  1. Homeowners apply through our online application or request a mail-in form.
  2. Homeowners are interviewed in their home.
  3. Homeseekers are interviewed at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.
  4. Homesharing staff screen and check references of Home Providers and Home Seekers to make sure they have a clean criminal history, no current addictions, and that they have a good rental history.
  5. Our Homesharing Counselors discuss and refer possible Homesharers, based on asking rent, location, and other “non-negotiables,” as well as based on personality and likes/dislikes.
  6. Home Seekers visit the Home Provider’s’ homes until each party decides on a roommate they like.
  7. Our staff meets with the Homesharers to formalize the match.
  8. We check in on the match once a quarter for the first year and provide free mediation services if needed.

The Homesharing Department is reachable at: (410) 366-6180 or you can go to www.stambros.org

Gerard Joab’s First 100 Days at St. Ambrose

Gerard Joab, who became St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center’s Executive Director in December, 2011 after founder Vincent Quayle’s departure, has been on the job for a little over three months. I had the opportunity to meet with him last Thursday to see how it was going.

Though his last job was in New Jersey, Joab’s beginnings were in Baltimore, so there’s a sense that he is coming home. In New Jersey, Joab was the Executive Director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Greater Newark and Jersey City. LISC provides funding and technical assistance for community development corporations. As director at LISC, Joab facilitated funding and support to organizations like St. Ambrose. Thus, he has an intricate understanding of the funding processes these organizations undergo as well as the obstacles they may face, and ultimately the elements necessary for success.

Joab has been taking the first few months as Executive Director to “learn, learn, learn”. While reacquainting himself with Baltimore, Joab is also getting familiar with the programs available at St. Ambrose and is continuously impressed by the depth and breadth of services available. “It is important to hold on to and affirm the history of St. Ambrose,” says Joab, indicating that there are no plans to make programmatic changes. He wants to reassure the community that St. Ambrose will continue to be a strong presence in the Baltimore community and a wealth of resources for all. Joab is eager to share the good news of the strength and diversity of St. Ambrose’s services, and offers a warm welcome to all those interested in participating and partnering.

As Joab explores the program offerings, he has seen how and why specific programs are utilized. He explains how the foreclosure prevention program has become one of St. Ambrose’s premier programs in recent times. “Because of the economic environment, foreclosure has been front and center”. In addition to foreclosure prevention, St. Ambrose excels in managing 300 rental sites across the city and in Baltimore County with the belief that quality rental opportunities lead to neighborhood stabilization. Another neighborhood stabilization program that stands out at St. Ambrose is Homesharing, which provides a unique and innovative approach to community building and strengthening neighborhoods. Homesharing, which helps homeowners stay in their homes, can stave off foreclosure and make houses more affordable.

The commitment to housing is palpable, but to everyone at St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, a home is more than a house. It’s a house in a stable, strong, and supportive community where people can live, learn, work, and grow, where dreams can be had and goals can be achieved, where children are safe and have access to more opportunities than their parents.

After 100 days as the new Executive Director of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, Gerard Joab is full of energy, enthusiasm, and experience. “Everything that I’ve done has prepared me for today and what I do today will prepare me for tomorrow,” he says.

Homesharing Spring Tea

Save the Date: April 22

Do you know someone who is looking for a room to rent, but needs more assistance than Craigslist can offer? Do you work with a population that frequently needs low income rental housing?

If so, you may be interested in attending our Homesharing Program’s annual Spring Tea. Hosted on April 22, from 3pm-5pm, the event is for people who want to know more about homesharing and who may be in a position to make client referrals. For more information on the event, please call 410-366-6180.

For more information on St. Ambrose’s Homesharing Program, click here.