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How ‘ for roommates’ could save seniors from homelessness

People in this story

Experience, June 2022

In the middle of the night in October 2021, Brenda Rose was up with her sick dog, Hazel, searching the web for housing in Portland, Oregon. For 15 months, Rose, 62, had been living on the city’s streets in an RV. The pandemic had wiped out her photography business, and she could no longer afford her rent. When her RV broke down, she says, she was feeling “at the end of my rope.” “I didn’t think I would get to retirement age and not have money,” says Rose, who had a housing budget of $900 a month in a city where the average rent of a one-bedroom apartment is nearly double that. 

After scouring ads on every corner of the web that night and finding nothing in her price range, Rose finally found what she calls “a lifesaver”: Home Share Oregon, a nonprofit launched in 2019 to match people in need of affordable housing with financially struggling homeowners who have open rooms. Home Share Oregon provides access to a platform called Silvernest which, much like does for dating, pairs housemates together through compatibility surveys. Without hesitation, Rose signed up.

After answering a series of get-to-know-you questions, the site paired Rose with Gayle Macdonald, a 70-year-old retired massage teacher on a fixed income who had an extra room in her Northeast Portland ranch house. The pair discussed everything from how their dogs, Hazel and Paulie, would get along to whether sponges or dish towels are better for doing the dishes (dish towels, obviously, they say), and determined it would be a good match. In late December, Rose moved into the house. Now you’d mistake the two for old friends. 

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