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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soapbox: Shared Housing?

This week's question from Patch Adams takes the concept of foster care in a different direction and seems to be particularly timely given the economic challenges so many people are experiencing. But I warn you, this one is really tough. On the other hand... it can offer wonderful blessings too! I know this because I have lived a version of this. 

6. If you have rooms at your home, why not take in single parents as a gift?

I have a unique perspective on this because of an unexpected turn my household took over two years ago. Readers Digest version: There was a young couple in our church who for a variety of circumstances, not their fault, were unable to continue living in their home. It began quite recently deceased father's house was empty and furnished as we prepared to get it ready to rent out in the summer. The couple and their 8-month-old baby had no place to live, my sibs and I had this house that was empty.  We offered them the use of the house until the summer rentals began. Everyone expected them to be able to move home within a few months.  Circumstances got worse and that was not possible, yet we had renters arriving starting in May and we needed the rentals to pay the house's cost. By then we had gotten to know the couple well, and after a discussion with my kiddos, I offered them the use of our downstairs family room and the downstairs bathroom as long as they needed it.

Thus, for 10 months we shared our home with this young family. That now seems long ago.  The daughter is now over 3 and has an almost 1yr old brother. The friendship that began while sharing space has continued, grown and deepened. My foster kiddos [now 14, 17, and 20] became adept diaper changers, tantrum calmers, and much much more.  They are worshipped by those two small children.  The boys have had a male role model. All of them have now seen [and lived with] a father who loves his wife and cares for his children, as compared with the unhappy memories of their own fathers. I had support through an unexpected health crisis. They had moral support through a really tough time. Was it all perfect, no. Of course not.  Sometimes the close quarters were a bit too close.  Many people do not understand. Differences in attitudes and habits create ripples. But the overall experience was a blessing to everyone concerned.  They have now been back in their own home for long enough to almost forget the time they weren't. They are so happy to be back.  We are happy for them.  We will always have a friendship very different than most.

Living with us with all the challenges of my kiddos was a real eye-opener and education for them.  Having them live with us was a reminder and education for us as well.  And, as a 60-something single woman, I now see wider choices for my later years than a small apartment or living with one of my children.  I now look at Adams' question and wonder who he thought was getting the gift.  I think both the single parent [or in our case, married parents] get a gift, but so does the hosting family or person.  

Not everyone has room, but so many of us have more space than we really really need when you come right down to it. And so many people are in desperate need.  Could you have a new kind of "open house" for someone?  Co-housing arrangements require open minds, and flexible spirits.  But the gift you can give and the gift you can receive is like no other.

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