Hygge Homesharing: A way to solve housing problems facing seniors and 2SLGBTQ community

Ralph Blaine

lllustration Phil Caron. A cup of tea enhances almost everything.

C. J.’s arthritic grandmother faced a dilemma when her husband passed away. “I’ll have to get a dishwasher. Mine just died.” C. J. knew this was no joke and wanted to help. But the two lived hundreds of miles from each other. That’s how she began to think about home sharing. She eventually developed a unique take on this idea and won a start-up grant from the Awesome Foundation which helped launch Hygge Homesharing.

C.J. Blake, who is 26, grew up in the Niagara region. She attended the University of Ottawa and graduated with a degree in International Studies and Modern Languages—living on Stewart Street in her final year. A university course in Gerontology and her experiences as a member of the 2SLGBTQ community led her to a possible solution to problems faced by these two groups.

According to C.J., 25 to 40% of youth in shelters are from the 2SLGBTQ community. Some sectors of this community face serious discrimination in the job market. This, in turn, makes it difficult to find suitable, reasonably priced lodging. There are also many seniors living in homes with un-used rooms suffering from loneliness and needing help with chores. She began to think about matching these needs.

Her first idea was to find matches entirely within the 2SLGBTQ community—senior homeowners with un-used rooms and young people willing to do household work in exchange for a reduction in the rent. As she discussed this idea with potential clients her model evolved. C. J. tells IMAGE that she has widened her target groups. Hygge is now looking for homeowners of any age and any sexual orientation. The prospective renter can also be of any age but will be a member of the 2SLGBTQ community.

With its target population clearly established, Hygge Homesharing is now conducting interviews and building profiles of possible participants. C. J. hopes to have the first five matches in place this September. Once a match is agreed upon the mechanics are straightforward. The homeowners will establish a base rent and a list of household chores they would like help with. The base rent will then be reduced according to the amount of work agreed to by the tenant. A two-week trial “backpack” move-in will be arranged before the final agreement is signed. If all goes well the tenant pays the rent to Hygge which remits the money to the homeowner minus a small administration fee.

At the moment Hygge Homesharing is still a one-person operation, but C.J. is working on recruiting a Board with herself as Executive Director. She sees her home-sharing initiative as not only providing homeowners with companionship and help but also creating links between some of the more isolated segments of the 2SLBGTQ community and the community at large. She is often asked if she sees opening her program to tenants outside the 2SLGBTQ community. She says that would only happen when society has changed enough that discrimination towards this group has significantly declined—when the 2SLGBTQ community has been fully accepted. In her words: “No time soon.”

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