For many women, getting older and living alone in their home, or facing the nightmare of not being able to afford a roof over their head, are situations that call for sensible and compassionate action. Recognizing this need, community leaders have created a Senior Shared Living Program. Soon available through the SCV Senior Center’s Advocacy program, this will be no-cost housing referral service that will help connect senior women age 55 and over with other female adults. A self-selecting service whereby women with room (to rent) in their homes can be matched with women who need housing, the program promises to be a nurturing antidote to solitude and homelessness.
At the program’s helm is its advisory board and founders, each of whom began this mission with a desire to address the affordable housing crises, particularly as it affects senior women. They are: Robin Clough, SCV Senior Center Advocacy and Volunteer Coordinator; Peggy Edwards, Bridge to Home Board of Directors president; Mary Jane Houlihan Hartman, member of the SCV Committee on Aging; Diane Trautman, community and senior advocate and former City of Santa Clarita Planning Commissioner; Linda Davies, SCV Senior Center Supportive Services Program Specialist, former Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Center, and Shared Living program initiator, and Gigi Alexander, an ardent activist who came up with the project’s idea, first coined “Sisters In Time.”
“I am very passionate about this program and know it will make an enormous difference,” stated Robin Clough, a longtime SCVSC employee and senior advocate. “Older women are in need of shared housing, as many experience financial struggles, fear of isolation, lack of family support, and potential homelessness. One out of every four people experiencing homelessness are women, and this number will increase as housing costs rise.”
Senior Shared Living will provide supportive affordable housing resources while addressing the critical issue of loneliness by offering companionship of a housemate and raising awareness of SCV Senior Center programs, Clough noted.
Members of Senior Shared Living will examine roommate matching components such as personal requirements and preferences, then provide referrals. Following that, the actual roommate selections will be made by individuals.
For safety and security purposes, it is recommended that three steps be taken by persons providing the housing as well as those seeking rooms: reference checks, income verification, and background checks.
“All Home Sharers receive their own bedroom plus shared use of the common areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, and yard. What they offer in exchange varies and is determined in advance by a written agreement,” Clough further explained.
She also suggests certain workable situations that could be arranged if both parties desire: A reduced rent in exchange for help with household tasks or other types of assistance, i.e., transportation, driving, meal preparation, and companionship. Or for a no-rent situation, a reasonable service exchange would be a maximum of 10 to 12 hours per week.
Clough cautions that for senior women to thrive in our community and avoid isolation there is an urgent need to link clients and encourage use of the Senior Center’s resources and activities.
“Housing is increasingly expensive, and many women suffer from the anxiety of not knowing how they can afford to remain in their homes. Many are on the verge of homelessness or have no choice but to leave our community and the vital ties they have here. The Senior Home Share program will be an option to address and mitigate this crisis,” she stated.
Diana Sevanian is a retired R.N. and longtime Signal Features writer and columnist.