Culpeper Housing and Shelter Services (CHASS) operates a 15 bed emergency homeless shelter in Culpeper, VA. One of our biggest challenges is finding affordable housing for the homeless, particularly singles with very limited income (i.e. minimum wage, disability or social security as their only form of income).
Statistics have shown that close to 50% of the homeless in the United States are single adults. Many of these people are seniors with a very limited income. The fair market rent for even a one bedroom apartment is more than their income can sustain. Basic minimum wage and disability income is not enough for one person to afford even the cheapest housing unit.
At CHASS, we have discovered that finding shared housing units can benefit the landlord/homeowner as well as a homeless individual with access to affordable housing and mutual support. Tight rental markets and limited assistance programs create scarce housing choices for low-income residents of all ages. Shared housing can offer housing for half the cost of a private apartment.
Many homeowners have extra rooms in their home and could also use some additional income. By renting out a room to someone in need it becomes a win-win solution. The homeowner is able to make some additional monthly income to help pay their mortgage and a homeless individual is able to find safe, affordable housing. Many times the tenant is able to help with chores that need to be done in the home.
The tenant has a separate lease agreement with the landlord. Monthly rent usually includes all utilities, cable and internet. Tenants have their own room and share common areas. Since this is the landlord’s home -he/she can spell out certain expectations, responsibilities, etc. in the lease agreement. Before signing the tenant needs to make sure they understand their roles and responsibilities.
CHASS can help with the security deposit and first month’s rent thru our Rapid Re-housing Program. We require at least a six month lease or preferably a yearly lease. We do an inspection of the property before the tenant moves in. We also will provide monthly case management with the client and budget counseling if needed as long as the case is open with CHASS. We have found that shared housing has helped in several ways:
- It is more affordable and flexible.
- Landlords seem to be more lenient and most landlord responses are positive.
- It is financially appealing to landlords.
- It is a step up to a homeless individual’s living situation.
- Housing is more sustainable for the client
Shared housing will not work for everyone, but it is better than long shelter stays and it can be a stepping stone while someone is waiting for their income to increase. With shared housing we are empowering our clients not enabling them. Every person deserves and needs to have a place to call home.
If you are a homeowner and might be interested in renting a room to someone less fortunate please contact us. For more information please contact: Cheryl Carter, Executive Director, Culpeper Housing and Shelter Services, 602 S. Main Street, Suite 3, Culpeper, VA 22701, 540-825-7434.