In a meeting with its founder last Thursday, Greg Schulz of Fullerton College expressed interest in a partnership with HomeShare OC, a program designed to help curb student housing insecurity.
The idea first came to founder Laura Kraft in her graduate thesis at Cal State Fullerton. The program works by allowing senior citizens to rent out their spare rooms to students for a maximum of $500 a month, for an initial period of six months. In exchange, students run errands and do household chores. Both parties also benefit from the intergenerational connection fostered by the arrangement.
The idea comes at a time where 61% of Fullerton College students are housing insecure and 17% are homeless, according to a survey done by the college.
“As we know financial aid packages are not increasing, but tuition, fees, and cost of living are. Students these days are struggling just to be able to afford stable living,” Kraft said.
She went on to talk about how students are living in their cars, couch surfing, or living in toxic households all while getting their degree.
“I have lived in a variety of odd places but spent the majority of my college years sleeping in my vehicle. It’s quite difficult because people don’t realize how cold a car gets in the middle of the night,” said one anonymous Cal State Fullerton student.
This student remained homeless until she was referred to HomeShare OC through an emergency housing program.
Before that, she described most of the solutions she sought to be bandaids for the true issue at hand: high rent and strict requirements to lease. Those who sign a lease often need to be making at least three times their rent must have good credit and referrals from landlords. Since the pandemic began, some landlords require three months worth of rent payments in their bank accounts.
HomeShare OC’s requirements center around creating a harmonious living arrangement. There are no credit checks, but students must maintain a 2.0 GPA, have no issues with drugs, and may not enter the arrangement with an unmanaged mental illness.
For homeowners, those with dementia are ineligible, and while students are there to help them with light household duties, they are by no means meant to serve as caretakers or as their parents. Students must be allowed a private space with a door on it.
Both the students and homeowners must go through an hour-long interview with Kraft so that she can personally determine whether or not they would be compatible. Finally, there is a two-week period where they both become accustomed to one another.
Everything is discussed during these interviews, from COVID-19 vaccines to privacy issues to socialization rules. Guidance on conflict resolution is given before the initial move-in process.
“The barriers and precautions I take are much safer than what they would find out there in just some random home they get into where their stuff is gone through, and they invade their privacy,” said Kraft on how students often sacrifice privacy and safety to get into affordable rental arrangements.
The Osher Lifelong Learning Program at CSUF, a learning program for older adults, endorsed HomeShare OC. This helped the program become the first outside the university to receive an endorsement.
“The student is delightful, and it is really nice to have someone in the house. COVID has cut all of us off from our normal lives, so this was a new, interesting and rewarding experience,” said one anonymous homeowner involved with the program.
Five students have been housed so far, and the number is only growing. Kraft said that the feedback has been inspiring.
HIS OC is currently raising money for the program, click here to donate and to learn more about HomeShare OC.