The Center on Halsted’s homesharing program
Meet three queer roommates matched by a new roommate-pairing service.
“At the end of the day, they’re just there for each other.”
Britta Larson is talking about the successful roommate matches she’s made lately. As manager of the Center on Halsted’s Homesharing Program, which launched last year as the first program of its kind in the country directed toward LGBT older adults, Larson’s a bit of a roommate fairy—a roommate fairy for fairies.
“LGBT older adults are much more likely to be aging alone,” Larson says. And “they generally do not want to move into a senior-living community because they may have to go back into the closet. So if they can stay in their own home, that is key.” To help them stay in their homes as long as possible, the Homesharing Program matches older adults (termed “providers”) with able-bodied “renters” who, in exchange for reduced rent on a spare bedroom (roughly $500 per month), may provide assistance in everyday tasks such as gardening, meal preparation and housekeeping. Just as important, the renters provide companionship and friendship to older adults and reduce the risks of isolation. In just about every way, “we’ve designed the program to be a benefit to LGBT older adults,” Larson says. But as the first three matches in the still-burgeoning program demonstrate, the advantages extend both ways.
Dick and Barry
Provider Dick Bennett, 61, was looking for a roommate who “was neat and courteous…that I felt that I could trust…that I felt that I could get along with.” Renter Barry Lasswell, 43, was just looking for a place where he could finally unpack his bag. Two years ago, Lasswell quit his job, rented out his condo and took a 16-month trip around the world. When he finally returned to Chicago, he “wasn’t really ready to settle down yet. All my stuff was in storage, my condo was rented out. I just kind of wanted to bide my time for a while and maybe leave and travel again.” For that purpose, the Homesharing Program, in which renters operate on a month-to-month basis, was perfect.
“When I moved in, it was the first time in over two years that I had actually unpacked my backpack all the way,” Lasswell says. “I had my own closet, my own space—it felt great.”
Bennett had looked for a roommate to share his single-family home in Ravenswood Manor for a few years with no luck. The rent money is a help to him as he’s searching for a job. Bennett also had a friend living with him for several years starting in the ’90s, and he was looking to repeat that experience—to have a housemate who was “more of a friend than strictly a roommate.”
He seems to have found that in Lasswell. “About 4:30 in the afternoon [I moved in, Dick] comes and sticks his head in my bedroom, and he says, ‘I think it’s time for me to have a cocktail, would you like to join me?’ And I thought, Oh, I like this guy. We’re going to get along okay.” The situation is working out so well, in fact, that it has interrupted Lasswell’s travel plans. “I was thinking at the end of the year, nine months or so, to leave and travel again. But when I settled down I thought, Gosh, I may not be able to leave.”