HomeSharing Celebrates 30 Years of Preventing Homelessness

In 1984, Shuey Horowitz had the foresight and creativity to launch a new program to provide affordable housing for low income families, which allowed them to remain in their communities and maintain their dignity and independence.   Working out of her home and then using borrowed space from another agency, she assisted people in finding safe and affordable housing, using the shared housing model, which matches “providers” – residents who need to share their homes or apartments in order to maintain them, with “seekers” – individuals searching for affordable housing in the community.  Thus, HomeSharing was born. In the first year, 50 matches were made.

When the PeopleCare Center in Bridgewater opened, the agency moved its operations there, where it remains today.  HomeSharing was incorporated in 1988. In those early days, the agency was staffed by Shuey and volunteers, served Somerset County exclusively, and funding was provided almost entirely through public monies.  Efforts focused upon educating the public about the shared housing model, becoming an established and respected social service agency, and serving clients not only with housing, but with other basic needs.  HomeSharing relied heavily on volunteers to assist with running the program, and still does.  HomeSharing expanded into Hunterdon County and hired a social worker. By the end of our founder’s twenty year tenure, 1,000 matches had been made.

The next ten years were ones of substantial growth for HomeSharing.

Highlights include:

  • HomeSharing now serves five counties in central New Jersey, including Middlesex, Morris and Union, as well as Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
  • Staffing includes two full-time social workers and a part-time bookkeeper, in addition to the Executive Director.
  • Funding has been diversified, and HomeSharing revenue comes from fundraising events, private foundations and corporations, as well as from the generosity of individual donors. Public funding is only a small percentage of the agency’s income.
  • Annual events include the Phone-a-thon, Handbag Bingo, 5K Run/1 Mile Fun Walk, Gala, Year-End Appeal, and Volunteer Recognition.
  • Clients receive Holiday Food/Gift Baskets and have an Annual Picnic.

By 2012, the agency made its 1,500 match!

In 2013 alone, HomeSharing assisted a total of 2,828 individuals; maintained/created 184 housing matches; and provided 84,614 nights of shelter.  A typical HomeSharing match is an older adult on a fixed income who needs extra money or services to remain at home, with a younger housemate facing employment or relationship changes.

As with all great ideas, what is old becomes new again, and 30 years later, HomeSharing’s grassroots philosophy is receiving renewed attention.  In these tough economic times, more Americans are turning to “sharing economies”, featuring barter for services, cooperative ownership of goods, and sharing of resources, including homes.  Some newer challenges faced by HomeSharing include the increasing economic strain on our clients, including a widening gap between what providers need to maintain their homes and what seekers can afford to pay; cutbacks in other social services that our clients need; as well as the diverse needs of the population who can benefit from shared affordable housing. We look forward to increasing our outreach to single-parent families, the newly unemployed, those in danger of foreclosure, as well as the traditional populations the agency has served.  HomeSharing is still going strong and is prepared to meet these challenges and thrive in the next thirty years.  We are still the only agency in central New Jersey using the shared affordable housing model to serve the low income working poor who are not eligible for other social services.

Many thanks for the steadfast support of our friends, donors, volunteers, board and staff- we could not do it without you! We hope to see you at our events this  year as we celebrate our milestone anniversary.