LGBTQ home sharing venture aims to pair students, seniors

How many university students would sign up to live with a senior? CJ Blake thinks it's a win-win, so she's planning to match up potential roommates here in Ottawa.

'Pairing them together in a relationship that benefits both of them seems a cozy idea'

CJ Blake, center, poses with a $1,000 cheque from Awesome Ottawa to help make her Hygge Homesharing dream come true. (Awesome Foundation Ottawa)

It's a simple idea with mutual benefits: students looking for cheap rent move in with seniors who are looking for some company and a little help around the house.

The movement is already catching on in several Canadian cities including Hamilton, Ont., and now CJ Blake wants to start her own Ottawa version, catered specifically to students and seniors in the LGBTQ community.

She's calling it Hygge Homesharing, and she recently won a $1,000 Awesome Ottawa grant to help make it a reality.

"I want to foster a partnership between the student and the senior, in which both can feel comfortable in the relationship; that neither of them feels the previous insecurity, whether financial insecurity or physical insecurity around their home," Blake told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"Pairing them together in a relationship that benefits both of them seems a cozy idea."

Screening process

Students would pay a discounted rent based on how much they can help out. For example, a busy medical student might pay more rent because they only have time to help their senior roommate pick up groceries once a week, while a nursing student might have more time to help, and would therefore pay less.

Both student and senior would first be screened.

"There would be an application process, going through all the checks and balances: police checks, income checks, anything you would normally do as somebody looking for an apartment. And then the senior would also have a police background check. So we make sure nobody's at risk," Blake said.

The idea has personal roots for Blake. She was inspired by her widowed grandmother, who was left to take care of things with arthritic hands.

"I want to eliminate loneliness," Blake said. "Eighty per cent [of people] over the age of 80 experience loneliness.... It's really remarkable that we don't talk about it more. The U.K., they now have a minister of loneliness. Why can't we have something similar in Canada?" 

She hopes to have Hygge Homesharing up and running in September 2019.

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning