By Mark Ince
Kingston Community News, Columnist
An important alternative housing model is building foundations in North Kitsap through the HomeShare programs at North Kitsap Fishline and Housing Resources Bainbridge (HRB). The concept is that a homeowner, or “provider” in program language, enters into a mutually beneficial relationship with someone seeking housing, a “seeker.” Both candidates are carefully screened in a deep application process which determines core values, lifestyle habits, even political and religious views, says Marta Holt, the HomeShare coordinator at HRB.
It’s a necessary and nuanced conversation because both sides are taking an important step in potentially making a successful match. This process is part of what makes the concept different from posting an ad on Craigslist. The “mutually beneficial” part is key, as it is not HomeShare’s intent to be an ordinary rental listings service. About 40 HomeShare programs operating in North America have been formally identified as part of a new national association.
The HomeShare concept has its origins in the Midwest and the Grey Panthers movement, focused originally in college towns, matching students with older homeowners trying to age in place successfully, those in a position to exchange free or sharply reduced rent for yard work, transportation to doctors’ appointments, cooking, dog walking, and, not least, companionship.
Recently, Fishline’s HomeShare/Alternative Housing coordinator James Peterson has talked with Tacoma’s Shared Housing Services, which is making tremendous progress, as well as a program in San Mateo, Calif., which like our local programs is more in the foundational stages. Typically, for every 10 housing seekers there is only one provider, making it imperative to recruit more providers.
Currently, HRB has made three successful HomeShare matches in 2018, and has five providers and 40 housing seekers, pending a waitlist cleanup. Fishline’s program has 8 providers and 15 active seekers, the latter mostly referred through the intake process at their food bank. Both programs are actively recruiting providers through community outreach, and HRB even runs a classified ad in county publications.
Peterson, having been in the position since March, reports he has actually placed more seekers through alternative housing models such as matching RV owners with property owners. Peterson says, “County commissioners recently opened up use for land designated rural residential and rural protected, meaning most of the Kingston area qualifies.” A $221 permit allows an RV living accommodation on a property, with a few additional requirements such as presence of utilities and a house onsite.
All social services agencies that interface with homeless clients or those at high risk for homelessness, including ShareNet, have observed the huge uptick in the problem since 2008, with even more concentrated increases in the past several years as housing prices in Kitsap become steadily out of reach for those in low-wage or part-time employment.
Holt has particularly identified one of the largest demographics threatened with homelessness: mid-life women who have fled a domestic situation or had one dissolve who have returned to work in low-paying service sector jobs. The women may not have any particular problems typically associated with homelessness or addressed through program or case management services, but are simply unable to afford even the lowest-priced rental housing in places like Kitsap.
With successful matching, the HomeShare program is a promising model for just such a demographic, as well as others. For more information, please contact James Peterson at 360-229-2503 or home firstname.lastname@example.org or Marta Holt at 206-842-1909, ext. 10 or marta@housin gresourcesbi.org.
— Mark Ince is executive director of ShareNet. Contact him at email@example.com.