February 6, 2015
By Maggie Katz
STAFF WRITER |
CLIFTON — Residents may soon find more affordable housing options in Clifton thanks to a Bridgewater-based non-profit.
In just over 30 year’s time, HomeSharing has helped make 1,600 matches to help get and keep people in homes. The non-profit matches those with a home and those seeking a home, both looking to share space and stay afloat financially.
The service has just become available in Clifton and 14 other communities in suburban Essex County, including Clifton’s neighbors, Montclair and Nutley, thanks to a grant from the Montclair-based Partners for Health Foundation.
“Providers” are residents who are looking to share their homes or apartments in order to keep them, and “seekers” are those looking for housing within their means. Seekers can apply from across the country, but providers must live in the cities served.
The $277,000 grant distributed over three years will help HomeSharing match clients called “providers” and “seekers” to meet housing needs in the expanded area.
Lisa Blum, executive director, said HomeSharing has already received some calls from the Clifton area.
Clients who stop in the office or call are briefly interviewed to gather basic information and given an application. Financial, criminal, Megan’s Law, and reference checks are then conducted. Eligible participants are personally interviewed about their living habits, pet tolerance, and even preference on how long dishes are allowed to remain in the sink.
In the case of a provider, the interview is conducted at their home, to ensure accommodations are as listed in the application. Blum said the provider must have a separate bedroom for the seeker and living space is shared.
The service matches individuals as well as families, but when more bedrooms are required, finding suitable matches may take longer, said Blum. The process for individuals takes two weeks at minimum, she said.
HomeSharing’s website states they do not “place” applicants in homes, but provide a means to bring the parties together. Clients are given contact information and first names of possible matches and decide when and where to meet up on their own time.
After parties agree to live together, HomeSharing helps draw up “service arrangements” for sharing and check in with matches five times over the course of the first year.
Blum said 48 percent of their matches continue beyond 12 months. She added some clients are looking for a short-term arrangement, while others are more “open-ended.”
In the case of seniors Jeanette Brown and Olinda Young, they have been sharing a home for eight years.
Young discovered HomeSharing when she was facing a lay off and a rent hike. When she met Brown, a retired chemist and author, she said it was “like coming home.”
“She opened up her entire home to me,” said Young. The two have a teddy bear collection, care for their dog, share their concerns, and have grown to be “like sisters.”
They both contribute to paying the mortgage on their Hillsborough townhouse, one of the original reasons Brown sought HomeSharing, though she added she “always wanted to do it.” The two share home responsibilities.
Brown is secretary of the HomeSharing Board and Young participates in fundraising and events for the non-profit.
“Who’s going to screen a person looking for a place the way they do?” said Young, who offered advice to would-be providers.
She also encouraged possible seekers to “jump on it” because there are extra protections through the screening process those typically seeking an apartment won’t find.
“I tell people who don’t want to live alone that they can do HomeSharing,” said Brown. “You can stay at home.”