Roommate Matching in the Age of Coronavirus

Deciding to make a change to your living situation is a big deal. It’s an even bigger deal during a pandemic.  Having a new roommate means navigating all of the normal subjects, with the addition of COVID-19 exposure. Those get-to-know-you conversations now include things like social distancing habits, group gathering expectations, and more.

Like many, Odd Couples Housing is adapting to a world with COVID-19. We modified our match meetings and created resources for our Seekers and Homeowners. We know that it’s never been more important to have a safe and comfortable place to call home. So, amidst all the changes, we have been thrilled to continue to make roommate matches!

After the start of the pandemic, some of our Seekers and Homeowners chose to put their housing searches on a temporary hold.  Others were eager to start their homesharing journey and opted to forge ahead with their search, while taking precautions to keep themselves and their match as safe as possible.

Meet a Roommate Match

Betsy is one Homeowner who joined Odd Couples Housing during the pandemic. She signed up in August 2020 and was excited to find a housing match. She had students live with her in the past and wanted to open her home to help others, especially during these unprecedented times. Living alone, Betsy missed having company around the house, especially since her other social activities were limited. She says, “I really like having the sounds of someone else’s footsteps in the home…I just find it comforting. It’s really nice, especially as we go into the winter with COVID.”

Ndina, a Seeker who signed up around the same time as Betsy, was looking for “a change of scenery and a change of pace” from her living situation. As an international student, affordability was important to her and when she learned about Odd Couples Housing, she was immediately interested. “I like the idea that it wasn’t rent. You get to stay in a home, you get to meet someone, and I thought that was great,” Ndina remembers.

Coronavirus Concerns

Betsy and Ndina matched on the Odd Couples Housing website and when they met, the two connected right away. Both felt excited to finalize the details of their arrangement and start living together, but they wanted to be as safe as possible. Betsy recalls, “I was cautious, and I requested that both of us get COVID tested before I would let her move in.” Ndina was relieved that Betsy had brought up the topic that was on both of their minds, “I appreciated that [she] thought of it and communicated that to me so I didn’t have to wonder, should I get a test? Is she being safe?

In addition to testing, Betsy and Ndina also set clear expectations about their needs and preferences when it came to COVID-19 safety. Now that the pair is living together, they are upfront about any concerns they have and openly communicate about their activities. “We discussed a lot, where are you going? Who are you around? I think our values are aligned on that,” Betsy shares. Ndina agrees, “We are both being sensitive and trying to be safe.”

A Promising Pair

Betsy and Ndina are having a great time getting to know each other and we couldn’t be happier for them! The two enjoy watching movies and running errands together and support each other around the house. And Betsy is thrilled that Ndina doesn’t mind taking out the trash, which is her least favorite chore! Despite the pandemic, the two found safe ways to connect and establish a happy life together.

They are a great example of a roommate pair that is communicating clearly and watching out for each other. As Betsy says, “We can’t control the whole world but I think we’re both doing everything we can to make sure we stay safe.”

Odd Couples Housing encourages all roommate pairs to have open conversations about their coronavirus related concerns and preferences and stay informed about COVID-related health guidance. For COVID-19 considerations for roommates, click here. You may also be interested in these resources specifically for Homeowners and college students.

 

 

Extra Housing Help For AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers

Odd Couples Housing announced a partnership with AmeriCorps VISTA — Mission: St. Louis to launch a housing subsidy program for VISTA volunteers affiliated with the organization. AmeriCorps VISTA — Mission: St. Louis seeks to alleviate poverty across Missouri by creating systemic change and providing direct services that improve the well-being of the poor and disenfranchised, particularly children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

5 Suggestions for Roommates in a Pandemic

The last several months have brought enormous changes to the way we work, study, shop, travel and live. Whether we live alone or with a roommate, many of the mainstays of our lives have transformed during this pandemic. Despite these changes, one thing remains the same: we all want a safe, comfortable place to call home at the end of the day.

If you’re sheltering-in-place with a roommate, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself spending more time together—and perhaps depending on each other a little more these days. We know that many of the considerations related to COVID-19 are uncharted territory for roommates, so we compiled a few tips to help you and your roommate get on the same page and to serve as a reminder that we’re all in this together!

Whether you and your roommate have an established relationship, or you’re just getting to know each other, these helpful hints can help make sure you’re both looking out for each other.

1. Stay informed

Some guidelines are changing rapidly, but there are some great sources of evidence-based information out there! Regularly check your local and state policies on business openings, gatherings, and mask-wearing. Statewide information can be found on Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services website.  Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for general physical and mental health information. When you find a trusted news source, bookmark it on your computer or follow them on social media, so it’s easy to check back later.

2. Make time for COVID-19 conversations

When it comes to the coronavirus prevention, it’s important for you and your roommate to be on the same page. Set aside time to sit down together and talk about your shared preferences and concerns. If you have a new roommate moving in, arrange for a phone call before they move in to talk about what you both are comfortable with. It’s always easier to set guidelines on the front end!

You might want to consider discussing cleaning/disinfecting schedules, social distancing, and special precautions if one of you is an essential worker or in a vulnerable group. Since you’re both probably spending more time at home than usual, it’s also worth discussing expectations around privacy or personal time. If you or your roommate is working from home, check out this blog for additional tips!

It might feel strange to talk in detail about your plan for grocery shopping or watching TV, but it’s important for the health of your roommate relationship that both of you understand each other’s concerns and agree on certain arrangements.

3. Follow precautions

There is no vaccine for COVID-19, so the best way we can prevent illness is by preventing exposure. You’ve probably seen these tips before, but we think they’re worth sharing again!

  • Wash (or sanitize) your hands often
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and face
  • As much as possible, try to avoid close contact with other people you do not live with (6 feet rule)
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with an elbow, tissue or mask
  • Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (think doorknobs, light switches, cell phones, faucets, desks, counters, etc.)

4. Plan ahead

We hope that both you and your roommate stay safe and healthy, but it’s important to have a game plan in the event that one of you does contract COVID-19. We recommend exchanging emergency contact information with your roommate and saving it in an easily accessible place. This is also a good opportunity for both of you to make sure you have copies of health insurance information, primary care physician contact info, and medication and allergy information on hand.

If you are a caregiver for a friend, relative, or pet, make a back-up plan for their care, just in case.

5. Enjoy each other’s company

While there are some important considerations to have in mind when living with another person, don’t forget that you can be great supports for each other, too! Ask how your roommate is doing, and genuinely listen to their answer. Have some fun together by finding activities you both enjoy or striking up an interesting conversation. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know each other better and explore shared interests.

Summary

Without a doubt, these are challenging times. But, with some careful planning and a little empathy, you and your roommate can be set up for success!

We know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now and if you’re feeling easily overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone. Don’t forget to take care of yourself by checking in with loved ones, getting exercise, and doing activities you enjoy. A few weeks ago, we shared a few stories of people across generations supporting each other and having fun, which brightened our day. We hope it brightens yours, too!

How Two Generations Facing Loneliness & High Housing Costs Became Housemates

Before Yuki, an international college student, returned home to Japan due to the coronavirus outbreak, she and Amy (a physician) had been happily living together in Amy’s University City home for months. Despite their age difference, Amy and Yuki enjoyed each other’s company and bonded over their love of Amy’s cats. They both appreciate the financial benefits of home-sharing, but that’s not their main motivation for participating in Odd Couples Housing. They agree that the main advantage of living together is feeling more connected and less lonely. 

Amy and Yuki were among the people interviewed last week on Saint Louis Public Radio (NPR) by host Sarah Fenske. Last Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air episode also featured Odd Couples Housing Co-Founder, John Levis, and Director, Brian Carpenter who discussed the company’s mission and how we work. Tune in to hear the interviews!

Pandemic Housemates

Like Amy and Yuki, many of our homeowners and their roommates are glad to have companionship while sheltering-at-home. We’ve stayed in touch with our matches during this difficult time, and are happy to report that all is well. We especially enjoyed hearing from the daughter of one of our longest-standing matches who told us that having a younger person living with her mom has given her considerable peace of mind. She said, “especially during the pandemic, it has been such a gift to have them there. The Odd Couples Housing program has been a lifesaver and a true blessing for our family!”

We’re happy that our roommate matches are able to support each other right now. Who are your biggest supports during this time? How do you stay connected with them? Take time to check in with your friends and family, seek things out that make you smile, and find ways to keep your mind and body active. 

Whether you live with housemates, family members, or by yourself, you’re probably adjusting to increased time at home. Limiting social time and activities can be hard. But, it can also create time to think about what you’re grateful for, reconnect with loved ones, and plan for the future. We don’t know what life might look like in the coming months, but we have a feeling that we won’t be taking our social connections for granted! 

Did You Enjoy Hearing Yuki & Amy On The Radio?

If you enjoyed hearing Yuki and Amy’s story, we recommend tuning into this episode of The Mark Reardon Show. Earlier this year, another Odd Couples Housing match (Erika and Diane) shared their experience as roommates on the air. Start at 9:25. 

If the home-sharing situation might be a good fit for you–-now or in the future–-please sign up on our website.

Intergenerational Camaraderie in Challenging Times

Lately, much of the media coverage around the coronavirus seems to pit generations against each other. While it may be tempting to point fingers or get swept up in these stories of millenials vs. boomers, old vs. young or us vs. them, these lines of thinking aren’t accurate or constructive. And, they make it difficult to bring generations together to do productive things like problem-solve and provide mutual support.

The coronavirus affects all of us, regardless of age, and now is an important time to come together.

At Odd Couples Housing, nothing makes us smile more than people in different life stages teaming up to support each other. It’s what inspires us and our roommate matches! We’ve spoken to a few of our matches this week, and they’ve been happy to have some company while sheltering in place at home. Hearing from them was a bright spot in our week!

What are the bright spots in your week? How are you keeping your spirits up?  If you need to hear some good news, we have some inspiring stories about people of all ages stepping up to help their community and cheer up their loved ones!

  1. Feeling antsy inside your house? Check out this young girl and her grandfather enjoying a socially-distant dance competition.
  1. Jayde Powell, a college student in Nevada, saw a gap in access to grocery delivery services among elderly residents in her community. She devised a plan to meet their needs. Danny Goldberg, a California high-schooler, had a similar idea and created an online platform where older adults can send their grocery orders to a volunteer delivery team.

  1. Celebrating special occasions can be hard when we can’t be physically together. Despite the distance, this family was able to celebrate their grandma’s 100th birthday!
  1. Dr. Jane Bedell had only been retired a few weeks when the coronavirus pandemic reached New York. Since then, she has put her plans to travel, and visit family on hold and is preparing to go back to work. She is one of the thousands of retired healthcare workers returning to the workforce to combat Covid-19.

  1. These 91 year-old twin sisters are quarantining together in their San Diego apartment–and finding ways to have some fun! Check out the daily pep rally they host for their retirement community from their balcony.

  1. Ali Jaffe is self-quarantining in New York and her grandma, Roslyn, is doing the same in Florida. But that’s not stopping Ali from learning her grandma’s favorite recipes–which are full of surprises–virtually! Listen to Ali and Roslyn’s story here.

Although we’re in complicated and challenging times, we are inspired by people coming together across generations to support each other. We hope you stay safe and healthy, and we’ll be on the look out for other good stories to share.