Written by Annie Wright, Occupational Therapy candidate at Washington University in St. Louis and HomeShare St. Louis participant
In the months before moving to St. Louis for graduate school, I was in full panic mode because I had not yet nailed down a housing situation. The panic was not helped by the fact that I was in California and I did not have the time nor the means to house-hunt in St. Louis. So, getting an email mid-July that I had matched with an older adult homeowner in the HomeShare St. Louis program was an indescribable relief.
Right away, I agreed to meet with my potential housemate over video chat to determine compatibility and discuss future arrangements. Despite the agreed-upon rent being a little more than my original ask, the price was still about $100-$300 less than I could have had to spend on other apartments. Furthermore, the house was fully furnished and the price all-inclusive, saving me the cost of buying furniture, parking passes, wi-fi, and laundry as well as potentially dealing with a run-down place.
Given that I had spent the last four years living in a dorm, I had never apartment-hunted before and I was not up for trying to deal with that in addition to the huge life transition I was about to face. I not only benefited financially, but I was also spared the huge effort of starting out in a new city completely from scratch.
After a week of driving across the country, showing up to a beautiful, century-old house on a tree-lined street was a pleasant experience. I was greeted with a warm welcome from my new housemate and her very excited sheltie/beagle mix. That first night, after a quick tour of the house, we walked a block down the street for a dinner at Snarf’s Sandwiches. The first few weeks held your average awkwardness of living with a person that you never met before and learning how to take care of a very old house, but my new housemate was very open to communication and we were able to resolve our problems together. Furthermore, she was willing to help me in any other way that she could. Coming from out of state, it was really nice having someone who knew St. Louis well in comparison to living with a fellow student who didn’t know the Delmar Loop from the Grove.
Over the course of our year spent as housemates, we were able to do some things together, like attending the Festival of Nations or preparing a meal, even though our work/school schedules were different. Events were hard to plan, however, I enjoyed the discrepancy in our schedules because after a long day of group projects and interactive classes, coming home and just sitting on the couch with a dog was a good time. At the end of the day, we usually were able to squeeze in a conversation or two and we both felt that having another person around gave us some peace of mind in regard to our safety and connectedness.
Overall, starting out in St. Louis, the HomeShare St. Louis experience was exactly what I needed. Aside from the financial gain and peace of mind, living with an older adult afforded me an escape from my daily life at school and same-aged peers and created a friend. From my perspective, I believe my presence also benefited my housemate, as was evident by her increased attendance at church and interaction with neighbors. At the very least, she now has a go-to dog sitter!