BALTIMORE — Housing prices continue to soar in cities around the United States. Even in Baltimore, a city that is considered affordable compared to New York and Boston, rents are unmanageable for many and young students in particular.
Before discovering the St. Ambrose Homesharing program, Rebecca, a student at Hopkins-Carey Business School was paying $800 per month for a shared apartment in Northeast Baltimore. Today she rents a room with Millie, a widow living four miles away from her former apartment and now pays $500 per month with utilities included.
Rebecca came to St. Ambrose because it seemed more secure than finding housing on her own. As an exchange student from Jiangsu, China, she was not familiar with different Baltimore neighborhoods and she didn’t feel comfortable calling strangers to ask if she could live with them.
“When I tried looking for housing, I wasn’t sure if it was the right place because I didn’t know the landlords’ background,” says Rebecca, 24. “But through home sharing, I don’t have to worry about it, so it’s safer.”
St. Ambrose conducts background checks on all applicants who apply to participate the program. Home sharing counselors look out for red flags like signs of hoarding, the person’s financial stability, and how well they get along with others. They also conduct a medical evaluation with clients who report seeing a doctor or therapist regularly to see if the care provider recommends the individual for home sharing.
Some young people in their 20s might turn their noses up at sharing housing with someone in their 60s but not Rebecca. Her Home Provider, Millie is an active, self-described ‘urban farmer,’ who does well sharing her home with a younger person. Millie also hosts Ed, a technician in his fifties, two Yorkie puppies, a Bassett hound, two parrots, two rabbits and four chickens.
Millie began sharing her home back when she lived in California and continued the tradition when she moved to Baltimore.
“Housing prices skyrocketed in California. Shared housing was a solution for me because I needed the money and didn’t have more time to work,” she says.
Today, Millie earns $1000 between the rent from Ed and Rebecca, who helps her cover her mortgage and the cost of feeding all her pets.
In addition to using St. Ambrose, Millie lists her rooms on Airbnb, a website where vacationers can connect with homeowners looking to rent out a room in their private home. However, she says the people she gets from St. Ambrose are better.
“They stay longer. Airbnb are short term generally. But St. Ambrose people stay and you develop a relationship, being a host to someone.”
This past month, Millie had the chance to meet Rebecca’s birth mom, as her parents came from China to visit Rebecca in Baltimore. “They were able to stay at Millie’s house and we had meals together and everything,” Rebecca said smiling. “Millie is very friendly.”
For more information about the St. Ambrose Homeshaing Program, call 410-366-6180 or visit: www.stambrosehousing.org.