In 2002, Sharon Leonard had one of the worst years of her life when her husband, Mike, unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
The financial burden of making the mortgage payment on her own, was another unexpected hit.
“The thought of giving up my whole home was just devastating,” Leonard said.
Mike’s death had come as a surprise, catching her off-guard. The last thing she wanted to do was sell her home.
In the midst of grieving, her sons came up with a plan to help her keep the family’s 3-bedroom, 2-bath Torrance home.
“He said, 'I will fix up the house,' and he said 'But then you have to get roommates,' and at first, I thought, ‘how do I do that?’” Leonard said.
Leonard is one of many seniors who have turned to home sharing in an effort to maintain their mortgages.
She now shares her home with two people who each rent rooms.
Julie Buchanan is one of the renters. She lives on a fixed income and is one of the two renters Leonard shares her home with.
But they didn’t find each other on their own. They were connected by an agency called Affordable Living for the Aging.
“Julie is like a breath of fresh air. She’s like 'Good morning! Good morning!' I’m like, 'Oh this is great,'” Leonard said.
Leonard’s financial story isn’t uncommon. According to a Harvard University study, over 420,000 65 and over households in Los Angeles are cost burdened.
Miriam Hall is the home sharing director for the Affordable Living for the Aging. She said the agency’s home sharing program helps low-income seniors find places they can afford.
“Home-sharing allows potential home providers to stay in their homes either by filling the gap, the financial gap or we have other matches as well where the roommate is providing a level of service and companionship in exchange for reduced rent,” Hall said.
But living with roommates isn’t always easy. Between two roommates and Leonard sharing a refrigerator, it can get a little busy in the kitchen.
Leonard said it’s a small price to pay to keep her family home and make new friends in the process.