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‘We’re spreading the love’

Wednesday, 1st August, 2018 5:01pm

Lucie Cunningham is not surprised that her year-old start-up business is drawing national attention.

Pairing young workers and students in need of accommodation with elderly homeowners living alone, THE Homeshare (THE stands for Together Helping Each other) holds the promise of an elegant solution to a complex set of problems. And it’s about to come to Cork.

“It’s a feel-good story, and it ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of social issues out there at the moment,” Ms Cunningham said.

Homeshare companies have been operating for 40 years in the US and have arisen in other countries since.

With the housing crisis and dilemmas around elder care running like motifs through the national news, Ms Cunningham, who has years of professional experience in home care, thought the time was right to bring the model to Ireland.

So far THE Homeshare has matched 16 homeowners with accommodation seekers, all in Dublin. Now Ms Cunningham is laying the groundwork for a launch in Cork. She has been in touch with local hospitals, public health nurses, representatives of Age Action Ireland, and others who can serve as a link to potential service users.

Already one Cork woman studying sculpture in Dun Laoghaire has been paired with a Dublin homeowner. Amy Murphy, 28, will appear on ‘Ireland A.M’. next Wednesday 8 August, along with Ms Cunningham and the 86 year old homeowner Amy was paired with.

THE Homeshare takes into account a homeowner’s needs around the house, as well as personality and interests, when making a match.

Once the pairing is made, an agreement is made specifying house rules and the support that will be provided.

After a two-week trial period, there is an evaluation. If all is well, THE Homeshare provides ongoing support and monitoring of the arrangement.

For these services, the company charges both parties a once-off finder’s fee of €350 and then €195 per month for as long as the arrangement continues. Both parties are thus protected from the legal entanglements of a rental agreement.

The model has drawn interest from politicians as well as the public. Ms Cunningham has been in talks with Minister Jim Daly about how homesharing might form a cost-effective part of the Government’s home care model.

With home care at more than €1,000 a month for ten hours a week, and rents at more than €1,000 even for student accommodation, both parties stand to pocket hundreds of Euro in savings.

But there are benefits beyond thrift. Older people living alone can suffer from loneliness and anxiety in case something goes wrong. With a house sharer, their minds are more at ease. “One lady had a massive stroke. She was in hospital in fifteen minutes, because there was somebody there,” said Ms Cunningham.

She added that sharers also appreciate the many decades’ worth of stories and wisdom that householders offer.

“It’s kind of time that we went nationwide, really. There are older, vulnerable people and struggling renters all over the country, unfortunately. So we’re spreading the love.”

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