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What is shared living?

October 21, 2020

"Shared Living" is a family-driven housing model for people with disabilities. Family-driven means participating families take the lead to create the housing solution and share the costs of housing and support services. Shared Living is a housing solution YOU create for your family member, and who is in a better position to do this than YOU? And in addition to reducing costs, it reduces social isolation and loneliness.

The key difference between shared living and other housing models is that shared living is a “consumer-controlled” setting. This means that the families make the decisions on roommates, caregivers, location, activities, etc. The families control the housing and services. Families can fire a caregiver and hire another, and the roommates stay where they are. Most housing options available are “provider-controlled” settings which means the caregiver or agency makes the decisions. If a caregiver is not a good fit, the roommate must move. Families don’t have choice of roommates or location. Having choice over roommates makes shared living attractive to many families.

Most young adults who move out of their family home have roommates. They do this to share the cost of rent and because it’s more fun than living alone. Adults with disabilities are no different… they may just need extra support. Some need a high level of support. Some may just need occasional support. Others fall in between. Services needed might include caregiving, supervision, shopping, cooking, cleaning, medication management, money management, planning social and recreational outings, or transportation. Some may need a live-in caregiver, and some may just need drop-in care. Setting up a shared living home takes time and planning. A key step is finding the right roommates and parent partners. Sometimes this can be a challenge. Partners4Housing’s online Roommate Matching Pool can help.

Once you determine who your son or daughter will live with and have identified your parent partners, you can begin to work together toward a shared solution that meets the unique needs of your family member and his/her roommates. Every shared living home looks different, just like every household of people without disabilities looks different. Here are just a few examples of solutions we’ve worked with families to establish:

  • 3 women, who all go to work each day, and have many social activities in the evening, live in a 4-bedroom home with a live-in caregiver.
  • A young woman and a young man who have known each other since preschool live in a 3-bedroom townhouse with their live-in caregiver. They take the bus to work and are active in their community.
  • 3 guys living together with a live-in caregiver. They work and enjoy walking to the neighborhood movie theater and eating at local restaurants.
  • A young man with autism who has a non-disabled roommate who has a fulltime job outside the home. The roommate is there at night in case of emergency and the two enjoy a few evening activities during the week. The young man has a drop-in caregiver during the day to help with things like cooking, cleaning, and shopping.
  • A young woman with high support needs lives in a home with two live-in caregivers who split the week and provide her with 24/7 support.
  • A young man with autism who has high support needs has a live-in caregiver. His caregiver is married and has a 2-year-old son.
  • 2 guys live in a 2-bedroom apartment and share the support of a drop-in caregiver. Parents live nearby to help when necessary.

As you can see, shared living can look very different based on the needs and lifestyle preferences of the roommates. Compatible roommates are important, and compatible families are even more important. Identifying families with whom you share vision and values is critical for success.

Shared living gives you choice, reduces loneliness and isolation, and makes housing more affordable and sustainable. It takes time to plan for and establish a shared living solution, on average 3-5 years. It requires parent support. Our advice is to start planning early. It helps to explore your vision for housing, ensure your family member has all the benefits and services they are eligible for, find compatible roommates and family partners, and work through the step to create a viable shared living home. Launching your child into adulthood takes time and effort, but it is achievable. Partners4Housing is here to help you create the housing solution you envision.