The Guardian featured Shared Lives and Homeshare as part of a story about ways to share your home. This is an extract from the full article:
Before he moved in with Alison Cooper, her husband Gary and their 21-year-old son William two years ago, Jonathan, 43, who has autism, would spend his days roaming Taunton. He was living with his elderly parents; living with peers hadn’t worked out, and he had unsuccessfully lived alone for a while – cooking is beyond his ability, and he was living off ready meals and takeaways, which was affecting his health.
Alison, 52, who works with people with learning disabilities, heard about Shared Lives; she and her family had hosted international students for years, but this seemed like the chance to live with someone more permanently.
Now, Alison says, Jonathan is happy and settled, spends two days a week at a day centre and works two days a week in another one. “His confidence has grown. Before, if he had to have a meeting with a social worker, he would write things down rather than talk to them, but now you can’t stop him talking.” This year he says he wants to go on holiday, which he’s never said before.
It has been a rewarding experience, Alison says. Did she worry it would change the dynamic at home? “I did. It has to be something the whole family wants. But now there’s no changing it – Jonathan is part of the family.” He visits his parents at weekends, but also spends a lot of time with the Coopers. “He knows we’re not just caring for him, he’s living his own life.”
Andy Marsland lives with George Oprișanu in Heywood, Greater Manchester
Andy, 67, had lived alone for 14 years before George moved in last August; he had become ever more isolated following his divorce 20 years ago, and particularly after he retired as an overhead line supervisor. “I sat in front of the box all day,” he says. Social workers from a local social enterprise called PossAbilities suggested Andy take part in Homeshare, which links up lonely older people with young folk who want cheap rent, and which is funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation and the Big Lottery Fund.
George, 30, chanced upon Homeshare online back home in Romania looking for digs in Heywood, where he had got a job working in the Argos depot. After he was cleared for Homeshare, he and George had a brief Skype chat and agreed to give it a go. He pays Andy £18 a week towards utilities, plus £150 a month to Homeshare, making it a much cheaper option than private rental. “My colleagues at Argos are jealous at how little I pay,” he says.
Under the Homeshare agreement, George promises to spend 10 hours a week with Andy and is to sleep at home at least five nights a week. Sometimes they go out bowling, “though he won’t come any more because I keep beating him”, Andy says. They don’t like each other’s food, so cook separately. But George is learning more English, or at least Lancastrian, such as “Al si thi”, Andy’s preferred form of saying goodbye.