Center on Halsted announces country’s first LGBT homesharing program
Using their annual holiday open house on Friday, Dec. 10, as a backdrop, the staff of Chicago’s Center on Halsted announced a new free service that will provide a unique alternative housing option for the city’s LGBT residents.
The program, which is the first of its kind, will pair interested elders with younger renters who would share their home. The renters would help their older roommates with their basic household tasks in exchange for reduced rent. Each pair of roommates would ultimately have to determine their own rental agreement in partnership with the Center, which would screen potential participants, facilitate matches and support the arrangement throughout its duration.
"I truly believe in this program," said Britta Larson, who manages the Center’s homesharing program. "And my job is to make sure it is safe, secure, well through-out and well done. We really have put a lot of time and effort into make sure this program is the best it can be before moving forward with launching it."
Larson believes the program will help those facing financial instability, loneliness, a lack of a family support network and a number of other challenges that disproportionately affect LGBT older adults, She added the program will also help younger people who are seeking companionship and the ability to affordably live in a more desirable neighborhood to forge new friendships.
Research for the homesharing program began more than a year ago under the tenure of the Center’s former senior director of public programs Serena Worthington, who now works with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). After investigating existing homesharing models and polling the agency’s membership, it created the new program.
Worthington anticipated the program would benefit participating elders in dire need of affordable housing options outside traditional nursing home settings. In addition to the Center’s new program, LGBT elder-targeted roommate matching programs and "naturally occurring retirement communities" have been created in Manhattan.
"Most people want to age in their homes and people are very reluctant to move into mainstream care environments, particularly LGBT elders, who are justifiably afraid of discrimination and are nervous about how they’ll be treated," said Worthington.