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Homesharing for LGBT older adults

Wed, Jan 2, 2013

Britta Larson

Simply finding a place for the night is a struggle for some people. While most of us take for granted the act of going home at the end of each day, for some people just being different creates a barrier to finding a safe place to sleep and to be accepted.

Center on Halsted’s S.A.G.E. (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) program offers first-of-its-kind homesharing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender seniors.

Cameron Scott, a musician and high school music teacher in his mid-50s, is renting out a room to a gay man in the homesharing program. Scott heard of S.A.G.E. homesharing through a friend who is an activist in the Chicago gay community.

“The things in common between two people sharing a place are important. Third-party references help put that together,” Scott said. He started working with the homesharing program in June.

“Picking your renter is like a dating service website without the dating,” he quipped. “I have had disagreements, but living arrangements have been very nice.” He highly recommended the homesharing program.

Cameron Scott

His renter, Jon, is in his mid-40s and thus not in the S.A.G.E program, since he is younger than 55.

The lease is for one year, and the two-bedroom apartment is $600 per month for each person.

Britta Larson is one of the early designers of the program, which began a year before she came in July 2010. Larson met with other home sharing programs in the Chicago suburbs, such as Center of Concern in Park Ridge and Interfaith Housing Center in Winnetka.

“The difference between our program and others is that we have additional screening measures, because older LGBT people are particularly vulnerable,” Britta Larson said.
Economic stability is important for S.A.G.E. renters, since, according to Britta Larson, the older LGBT community is more likely to have a lower income than the heterosexual community due to unequal treatment under law.

Usually, a LGBT person lost half of her or his income when the partner died.

“Older LGBT people risk aging alone, not having family support,” Britta pointed out.

Background checks are done on all applicants and renters involved in S.A.G.E., which is a free program, except for the rent that the applicants would have to pay the renter.

One major donor is the Retirement Research Foundation, which is in its second year with S.A.G.E. Two private donors also started with the program in its infancy.
Another difference between S.A.G.E. and similar programs, Larson noted, is the follow up with participants to guard against any kind of abuse.

S.A.G.E. formally opened in December 2010 and its first match came in March 2011. There have been 11 matches to date, or 22 people; eight were still living together as of this fall, with three matches ending. Most matches have consisted of gay men.

Requirements are simple: the renter should have about $750 monthly income and the landlord should have an extra bedroom. Utility fees are included.


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