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In a home-share match, Home Providers may seek services like yardwork, pet care or transportation in exchange for a room to rent

Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon's Metro HomeShare offers a "creative solution" for both home seekers and home providers, said Pauline Burkey, program manager for the nonprofit organization.

PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Jennifer Carter, left, program assistant, and Pauline Burkey, program manager for Metro HomeShare, check out a potential client list.  "We are a home-share program that connects people who have rooms in their home and are looking for rental assistance or services with people who are seeking a stable and affordable housing solution," she said.

In a home-share match, Home Providers may seek services like yardwork, pet care or transportation in exchange for a room to rent, or may offer a combination of services and reduced rent. Home Seekers are willing to contribute to the household by completing those tasks and/or paying rent.

Metro HomeShare is a relaunch of Shared Housing, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon's former program, which closed in 2013 due to budget cuts.

The new program, which started up last October, is funded by a variety of agencies, cities and bureaus, including Clackamas County.

Individuals also may contribute tax-deductible donations to Metro HomeShare on the program's website at metrohomeshare.org.

Burkey said she is excited about serving Clackamas County residents and will introduce the new program at 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at the Pioneer Community Center, 615 Fifth St., Oregon City.

"I want to cast the net wide to let people know we exist again," she said.

Metro HomeShare

"We act as facilitators for people who want to find a housemate," Burkey said.

Applications for both Home Providers and Home Seekers are on the organization's website, and "after we get an application we do a background check and begin the screening process," she said.

For home seekers, Metro HomeShare also does an intake interview; for home providers, they do a home visit.

The data is then fed into a computer program that comes up with a list of potential matches, Burkey said.

The home seekers get the lists with names and phone numbers, and it is up to them to contact the home providers.

"Clients self-match. Both parties speak on the phone, and we recommend that they meet in a neutral place" for an interview, Burkey said.

Home providers and home seekers are given a handout detailing exactly what the home-share program entails, including lists of questions that can be asked during the phone and in-person interviews.

If both parties want to move forward once this step is completed, staff sets up a time for clients to meet with a team of mediators to begin drafting a legal rental contract and discuss house agreements and terms of a service exchange.

Once the home seeker moves in, "there is a 60-day, mandatory follow-up" with the new housemates. The program supports each match with up to two years of case management support.

There are some fees involved in the process, since it costs Metro HomeShare about $1,200 to make a match; this covers background and credit check charges.

The fees are waived, however, for anyone making less than 80 percent of the area median income of $41,850 a year, Burkey said.

Metro HomeShare will work with each participant, based on their income, to identify resources to assist in payment of program fees. All program fees are nonrefundable, she said.

"Most of our clientele will never pay anything, because we are working with those who are currently living on a fixed income, or are not earning enough to afford a stable home in our area," she said.

Win-win situation

Because Metro HomeShare has been up and running only since October, Burkey has not yet made any matches, but the process is underway.

"We have a list of applicants, at this time, most of them home seekers. I am doing outreach to find home providers — people willing to open their homes," she said.

Many of the potential home providers are older adults who are either living on a fixed income and need the additional finances through rent, support with everyday tasks around the home, or are seeking companionship through home-sharing, Burkey said.

"Home seekers also benefit from this as an option because there is always a need for more affordable housing. Home-sharing takes advantage of homes that already exist." Burkey said.

She is encouraged by the fact that "we are now experiencing a shared economy. We have [shared transportation] like Lyft and Uber, so why not shared housing?"

Burkey added, "Airbnb has shown us that people will allow strangers in their homes. We do all the screening, and that takes some of the fear out" of the prospect of sharing a home.

Getting off the ground

Mero HomeShare is part of the national Shared Housing Resource Center and is the only home-sharing agency listed for Oregon, Burkey said.

Research has shown that most programs can anticipate making anywhere from five to 10 matches in their first year.

"We have to build up our client pool. Because our clients self-match and we're working with people, there are a lot of complexities involved. Our hope is to create mutually beneficial home-sharing arrangements that go beyond just housing, but build relationships between people, too. That is going to take time," Burkey said.

She wants to make it clear that Metro HomeShare is not an in-home provider service; personal care is not part of the agreement. No one will be expected to do heavy lifting or administer medication, for example.

Home seekers may be asked to help cook and clean, run errands and help with household tasks, Burkey said.

"We can't say we will get everyone a home, but we do our best to present the best options."

She is hoping to find people who "are not only open to sharing their homes but are open to sharing their lives.

"This can be a beautiful opportunity to build a community that you never thought you'd have."

Share your life

What: Presentation about nonprofit Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon's Metro HomeShare program serving Clackamas County

When: 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 8

Where: Pioneer Community Center, 615 Fifth St., Oregon City

More: Visit emoregon.org/shared_housing.php or call Pauline Burkey at 971-271-5195.

Partners: Metro HomeShare partners with the city of Hillsboro, Clackamas County, Meyer Memorial Trust, Portland Housing Bureau, CareOregon, Elders in Action, Multnomah County aging, Disability & Veterans Services, African American Alliance for Home Ownership and Resolutions Northwest.

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