This Nonprofit Is Helping People in Marin Find Homes

Home Match Marin participants (Courtesy of Home Match)

Front Porch, a 50-year-old statewide nonprofit, helps seniors with a vast array of beneficial programs including food and nutrition, creative aging and art galleries featuring the work of older adults and those with disabilities, as well as programs that ease social isolation, offer armchair travel or even allow participants to receive a friendly weekly phone call.

But one of the most important, which has already been successfully implemented in Mill Valley and Corte Madera, is a program called Home Match that pairs seniors (or anyone in need) with roommates who can provide companionship, ease the cost of living and/or help with some tasks.

“We work with mostly older adults and anyone over the age of 18, who has an extra room in their home or apartment, or an additional unit on their property, and we help them through the process of connecting and living with a community member seeking a more affordable housing option,” says Luke Barnesmoore, Home Match’s director of strategy. “It’s all just a way of helping older folks to be able to remain socially connected and stay in their homes.”

What Home Match offers is much more comprehensive and far safer than simply placing an ad on Craigslist or Nextdoor. After receiving an application from the home provider the Home Match team meets with providers to find out what they are looking for in a match (whether the need is financial, companionship, extra help or any combination of the three), helps clean and prepare the room for rent, lists the room, runs background checks, completes income verification for the home seeker and makes an introduction. The team also helps prepare comprehensive written agreements and even offers mediation if there is a problem later.

Finally, the matches — in Marin the room providers are usually women in their 70s who live alone — share a phone call and if that goes well are encouraged to meet. “Some people want to meet for coffee before they meet at the home; some people want to meet right away at the home and see the room and share a meal together,” Barnesmoore says. “We want folks to spend enough time together that they really have a good sense of whether they’re going to appreciate each other’s company.”

But the service — which is funded through a mix of private and public money and receives a sizable contribution every year from the Marin Community Foundation — is also a big asset to people like restaurant workers and teachers who want to live in the community they serve. “There’s lots of folks who are in the local workforce who are struggling to be able to live even close to where they work,” Barnesmoore says. “It’s not only a workforce recruitment and retention question but a question of dignity. This gives them the time to take care of themselves, spend time with family and friends and live a robust life outside of work.”