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.

COVID-19 and College Students: Your Go-To Resources

Over the past week, we’ve seen significant changes in our day-to-day lives as a result of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. In our previous blog, we shared some information to help you learn and track COVID-19 cases. Today, we want to share some go-to resources specifically for college students.

Because Odd Couples Housing works with students, we’ve been thinking about the many young people whose lives and studies have been disrupted by the pandemic. This is no normal semester for many students. Colleges and universities across the country terminated study abroad programs, moved classes online, extended spring break, and in some cases, asked students not to return to campus. For many, this is a stressful time—financially, socially, and emotionally.

Because of this, we want to share some resources to make your life a little easier as you adjust to off-campus learning.

Stay in touch with your university!

First, remember that just because you don’t have a physical presence on campus doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay connected. Check your email, be in touch with your academic advisor, student affairs and other university staff and join Facebook groups to stay in the loop. Your university might be able to offer options for financial aid and work-study, campus resources that might be available to you, and handling extenuating circumstances. Your university connections are a great place to start if you need extra support!

Storage Resources

Also, if you need a place to store your things while you’re in between campus and home, contact U-Haul. U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage to college students who are displaced due to the virus.

Transportation Resources

Is transportation a stressor? If you’re going home and want to avoid trains, planes, and buses, consider Enterprise Car Rental. Enterprise is reducing the minimum age for car rental and waiving young renter fees for students through 5/31/2020.

Medication Resources

If you left medication in a dorm room you can no longer access, or if you’re uncomfortable going to the pharmacy to pick up medicine, there are affordable delivery options. CVS and Walgreens are both offering free prescription delivery.

Technological Resources

Importantly, we know that not all students who will be taking online classes have reliable internet connections off-campus. Many phone and internet companies are offering accommodations for people affected by the virus. These benefits include waived late fees, access to WiFi and hotspots, and suspending service termination for those impacted by COVID-19.

In short, we know it’s stressful to make a mid-semester change or be uncertain about your educational future. It’s natural to feel anxious during times of unpredictability and transition. Because of this, we recommend you take care of yourself as you settle into your semester. Facetime a friend, experiment with a new recipe, read a book you’ve had on your list, or try some of these strategies to help you cope!

Do you have any tips or tricks for students acclimating to a new kind of semester? Odd Couples Housing wants to hear from you—please share below!

Debunking The Generation Gap

Baby Boomers, you’ve probably heard a lot about the millennials. And millennials, I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about the Silent Generation. So, where did these generational delineations come from, and what about the stereotypes that accompany them?

The Generation Gap is defined as “differences of outlook or opinion between people of different generations.” It’s often used to explain perceived differentiation between people of varying ages and feeds some of the generalities made about the behaviors of people in different generations. It could help explain why you may get some skeptical looks when you bring up intergenerational living to your friends or family members! 

Take a look at the chart below to see where generations are commonly divided:

It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on when they were born. But, does our age define our opinions, talents, interests, and motivations? A study from the Cambridge University Press on intergenerational differences in the workplace says, not so much. In their words, “there is little solid empirical evidence supporting generationally based differences and almost no theory behind why such differences should even exist.” Simply put, you might have more in common with a differently-aged roommate than you think! 

Take technology use–this is a classic example of something that is often seen as a dividing force between generations. Millennials and Gen X-ers have a reputation for being too tech-dependent while Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are seen as being out of touch with technological advances. However, a recent study from the Pew Research Center showed that that older generations are adopting technology at high rates. Nearly 70% of Baby Boomers have a smartphone! And just as interesting, while the rates of social media use have stayed steady for Millennials in the past several years, they have grown by at least 10% for both Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. 

All this to say, the generation gap might not be so very big after all! If you’re thinking about ways to make connections with people of different age groups, intergenerational living could be a good fit for you. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know someone of different ages, debunk myths, learn a new perspective, and share what you know with another person!

Happy Housing Anniversary!

If you’ve been following Odd Couples Housing, you probably recognize Nagesh and Sally. They were one of the first matches that we set up and have shared their experiences on STLMade (link) and the Ladue News (link) (any others?). Sally is a retired Associate Dean of Communications at Webster University and loves spending time with her cuddly boxer, Tank. Nagesh is a current graduate student at Webster where he is busy earning two Master’s degrees. 

October 23rd marked the one year anniversary of Sally and Nagesh becoming roommates. We caught up with the pair about the past year and what the Odd Couples Housing match has meant to them. 

“I got so lucky,” Sally said, “It’s been very smooth. It’s very win-win.” Nagesh is originally from Mumbai and Sally noted that some of the favorite things she has learned from him are related to Indian food and Nagesh’s keen cooking abilities. Aside from learning about Nagesh and Indian food, Sally has also learned some things about herself in the past year. Most salient? “Learn to let go. I don’t have to be a parent.”

Nagesh was also effusive in his description of the past year with Sally and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share her home. Living with her helped him feel settled in St. Louis, focus on school, and most importantly, “find a home away from home.” 

When asked about what year two will hold for the pair, Sally sighs. Nagesh will be graduating soon and most likely leave the St. Louis area. She will be sad when he moves out, but made it clear that she is ready for the next young person Odd Couples Housing sends her way!

And Sally’s advice for new roommate pairs?

“Live and let live–acceptance is key. You teach me and I’ll teach you.”


Living with a Roommate Who Works from Home

For some, the days of packing a lunch, getting dressed up, and going to work are long gone. Whether it’s every day or occasionally, at least 43% of American spend some time working remotely each year. Despite being fairly common, many people are not familiar with this new work structure. If your new roommate works from home, you may be wondering, “What does this mean for me?”