Woodstock-area homeshare program seeks participants

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-14-2023 9:49 PM

WOODSTOCK — When the Thompson Senior Center proposed a homeshare program three years ago, Honey Donegan was one of the first people to sign up.

The program — which pairs homeowners with rooms to rent with guests willing to help around the house in exchange for lower rent — appealed to Donegan, 74, for two main reasons: financial and social. She is able to keep her homestead tax deduction by renting space through the program and she also has someone to help with household tasks.

“There’s something relaxing about knowing that if you fall down the stairs, someone will eventually find you, or if you need a ride to the hospital, you can offer that to the person who is renting and they can offer that to you,” said Donegan, who has lived in Quechee for more than 26 years.

Donegan was half of the Thompson Homeshare program’s first match.

Last fall, she had a guest move into her home for six months. The pair chose not to renew their contract after Donegan’s guest decided to move in with a friend. Donegan is now one of five hosts who are hoping to be matched with guests, said Shari Borzekowski, who as the Thompson Center’s aging-at-home resource coordinator oversees the program. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed Thompson Homeshare’s rollout and Borzekowski is ramping up efforts to get people to sign up.

“The biggest challenge is encouraging people to accept the idea that having someone live with them is a good idea,” said Borzekowski, adding that there is no age requirement for hosts or guests. “I think the more people hear about (the program), the more they can wrap their heads around the notion that it might be nice to have someone here sometimes.”

While there are around a half-dozen people signed up to become guests, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily a good match for the homeowners currently signed up.

“We work really hard to consider personalities, needs, lifestyle, little things like: Are you a morning person or a night person? Do you watch TV loud? Are you a smoker?” Borzekowski said. “Some of our hosts want no help, just want somebody to keep them company or to have some financial assistance paying their mortgage. Some of our hosts are looking to plan for aging at home and want someone who can drive a tractor … and help with groundskeeping.”

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One of the reasons Donegan feels comfortable sharing her home with a stranger is because of the extensive background check, reference check and interview process for guests. Potential pairs meet in person before moving in and have a two-week trial period after moving in together. Thompson Homeshare also sets up the rental agreement and contract, meaning Donegan does not have to worry about the legal aspect of creating a lease agreement, as she would if she were to rent to someone on her own.

“It’s so important,” Donegan said. “You’re guaranteed the safety, and if there is a problem with the relationship not working out, instead of being upset you just call Homeshare and they will deal with whatever the problem is.”

Borzekowski stressed that the homeshare program is not a good fit for people who are in immediate need of housing, as it can take a while to find the right fit.

“I say to anyone who is applying as a guest, ‘Do not let this be the only resource you’re using to find a place to live,’ because there are no guarantees for timing or a good match,” Borzekowski said.

For more information about the Thompson Center’s Homeshare program, visit thompsonseniorcenter.org/homeshare, or contact Borzekowski at 802-457-3277, ext. 4, or sborz@thompsonseniorcenter.org.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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