SHARE Program Helps Senior Citizens Continue to Live in Their Own Home

| February 21, 2020

VENANGO CO., Pa., (EYT) – Venango County senior citizens who want to continue living in their own home, but need some help to do so, now have an option.

(Photo: Jeremy Tidd and Kate Stephens)

A new county program – SHARE (Shared Housing and Resource Exchange) – can match senior citizens with someone who needs affordable housing in exchange for reasonable rent and a little help around the house.

As people age, they sometimes find it challenging to keep up with the demands of home ownership. It may be the physical demands of lawn care or snow removal or the financial challenges of utility bills and taxes.

Others in the community need affordable housing.

The Shared Housing and Resource Exchange program, or SHARE, aims to connect those age 60 or older who have an extra room in their home -called home hosts- with community members who are at least 18 years of age needing a place to live -called home seekers.

In exchange for affordable rent, the home seeker may provide services such as grocery shopping, rides to appointments, laundry, housekeeping, or lawn care for the home host.

“A lot of people around here, especially older adults, are having trouble paying their taxes,” Kate Stephens, Supervisor of the SHARE program, told “They may have trouble paying the mortgage.”

“They’re on a fixed income, and as taxes go up and the cost of living increases without an increase in their income, it’s more difficult to stay in their own home.”

Stephens says Venango County Older Adult Services has had flat funding for several years while at the same time seeing a growing consumer base. As a result, the core services provided by the agency have changed.

Funding for general housekeeping is something Older Adult Services is no longer able to provide.

“That’s one of the biggest requests we get,” said Stephens. “Somebody to run the vacuum, do the dishes or change linens, that is what many people need.”

The SHARE program helps to fill that gap.

“In this program, there is an exchange of money and/or resources for rent,” said Stephens. “By resources, we mean housekeeping, laundry, snow removal, taking someone to the doctor, and other transportation.”

Home seekers do not provide medical services. They do not administer medication. It’s okay if the home seeker picks up medicine from the store, but they do not provide nursing services.

All participants undergo a state and national background check. There’s also a face-to-face vetting process that includes a nine-page questionnaire about lifestyles.

Jeremy Tidd is the SHARE program counselor.

“It’s an hour to an hour-and-a-half conversation with each person before they even get an application for the program,” he said. “We find out their personal preferences and personality so we can find out who they would match with.”

The questionnaire addresses the personal preferences of both the home host and home seekers, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and pets, to ensure a suitable match.

In explaining how the program successfully works, Tidd uses the example of a 73-year-old widow living in a three-bedroom home as a home host. The widow may not have any family members in the area. In this case, the successful home seeker may be an 18-year-old student who has aged out of the foster system and is putting herself through school.

Home hosts can designate if they would like the home seeker to be a male or female. They’re also able to end the program if they don’t think things are working out.

The SHARE program is new to Venango County. They currently have no participants. If you are interested in learning more about the program, Venango County Older Adult Services plans presentations at the following Senior Center locations:

– Seneca Fire Department Wednesday, March 4, 10:30
– Franklin Towers Wednesday, March 11, 10:30
– Pleasantville Thursday, March 19, 10:30
– Utica Thursday, March 26, 10:30
– Scrubgrass Senior Center Friday, April 17 12:30
– Cranberry Place Friday, May 15 12:30

If you cannot attend any of these presentations but are still interested in the program, please contact Jeremy Tidd at 814-432-9711 for more information. You can also visit the Venango County website.

Program Guidelines

• Host homes must be located in Venango County and must meet HUD standards.

• The Seeker must have their own bedroom.

• All applicants must be over age 18; one individual must be over age 60.

• The Seeker can only be charged 30% of their gross income, including utilities.

• The Agreement can be for rent, resources, or a combination.

• Not emergency housing.

• Individuals not appropriate for the program will be referred to a community resource for assistance.

Each participant will have a SHARE Counselor who will help complete the application, assessment, and intake. The process will begin with a face-to-face interview at the Host home that takes about 90 minutes to complete. Applicants will be required to give their social security number to be used for background checks to ensure the safety of the Host and the Seeker. The main focus is providing a good match, and Hosts and Seekers must be flexible, accommodating, good communicators, sensitive to others, good communicators, and problem solvers.

Once the application is accepted, the Counselor will then identify and introduce potential matches and facilitate a trial before negotiating and implementing match agreements. Another benefit of this program is ongoing monitoring and support of the matches. The Counselor is also there to provide community outreach and education. The SHARE Counselor will also assist with any conflict resolution and conduct monthly check-ins and periodic home visits that are required. Contract termination is another duty of the Housing Counselor. Either participant can end the Agreement with a 30-day written notice. In the event of an emergency, an Agreement can terminate with a 5-day written notice.

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Category: Community, Local News