How does it feel to rent out a room in your home to a stranger?
Since 2013, YMCA London South West have been delivering Young People’s Supported Lodgings; a housing scheme which places young people aged 16 – 25 who are in employment and/or education with families, couples or individuals who have a spare room to rent out.
I met up with Sarah, one of YMCA LSW’s Supported Lodgings hosts, to find out how it was for her and her family to receive a lodger into their home six months ago.
Sarah is living with her husband Luke, their two youngest children, the family dog Trixie and now, 25 year old Michael – a lodger who is renting their spare room through Supported Lodgings – in a lovely house just outside Tolworth.
They have been Michael’s hosts since September last year and by now, six months later, Sarah is so used to having him in the family she can’t imagine a situation where Michael is not their lodger. Initially, however, the family did have some concerns about letting a stranger into their home.
“Actually, my children were the ones who were most sceptical of having a complete stranger come live with us. They even asked if he was CRB checked! Having said that, I too was quite anxious about letting a stranger into the house. I have to admit I didn’t like the thought of sharing, especially not the kitchen. Also, I was thinking a lot about the fact that he wasn’t my child – that he wasn’t someone I could control in the same way I can control them”, she explains.
However, once Michael was settled in and had become a part of the household, they realised all the initial worries were unfounded.
“Honestly, it’s been nothing to worry about at all. A few weeks after he’d moved in we were totally relaxed with having Michael around. He wasn’t longer a stranger in the house, he was just a really nice chap staying with us”, Sarah says.
The family decided to give Supported Lodgings a go after seeing an ad for the scheme in Starbucks. Even though the weekly rent of £100 that Sarah and Luke receive from YMCA LSW for the room they are renting out to Michael might not be as big as the rent they could have made on the private market, they feel that by helping a young person with affordable living, they get something back which is much more valuable than money.
“It just feels nice to rent out the room to someone you know really needs it”, Sarah says. “Also, it’s a great experience for the kids to have a young person like Michael in the house, as they learn that homelessness can affect all kinds of people”.
Part of the family
How does it work, then, to have an independent young man living in the midst of a close knit family of four? Sarah says that Michael gets on very well with the family. Recently Michael and her son Oliver have been using weights together, and Sarah explains that Oliver genuinely enjoys the company of their lodger Michael, which is a mile stone for her son as he has ASD and mild depression so he’s cautious who he trusts.
“We really like having him around and often invite him to eat with us or to watch a film. But he works long hours and keeps to himself mostly. Also, we don’t want him to feel obliged that he has to take part in our lives”.
Becoming a host
Sarah says the process of becoming a host was very easy and straight forward.
“We even did the safeguarding online – it was easy peasy”, she says. “Zoe Sargent, the Supported Lodgings Co-ordinator explained the whole process well and came across as very approachable.
Also, I think the one thing that made us take the final step and deciding to become hosts was that Zoe reassured us that we could opt out at any time. She made it clear that we could always change our mind”.
To other people who have got a spare room they are considering renting out via Supported Lodgings, Sarah simply says: “Give it a go!”
About Supported Lodgings
Supported Lodgings hosts receive £100 a week in rent which is paid either from the young person themselves or from YMCA LSW, depending on the financial circumstances. Under the Government’s ‘Rent a Room Scheme’ home owners can receive an annual income of up to £4,250 tax free from renting out a spare room.
Great care is taken in matching hosts and lodgers in order to make a suitable arrangement for everyone involved. The length of the placement is flexible, with the shortest period of stay being a few months and the longest up to two years.
Get in touch
Young People’s Supported Lodgings Co-ordinator Zoe Sargent at YMCA LSW is seeking for more people in the Kingston area to register their interest in becoming hosts:
“We see more and more young people struggling to find affordable housing solutions, even if they are employed. The Young People’s Supported Lodgings scheme is one of the ways YMCA LSW tackles the affordable housing crisis in our local community.
By matching young people who are in employment and/or education with local hosts with a spare room, the young people will be able to save up money for a deposit, enabling them to get a place on their own. The scheme has been a success so far and both hosts and lodgers are very satisfied with the follow up they get. However, there is a need for more hosts like Sarah and her family and I encourage more people in the Kingston to register as hosts in order to help young people getting an affordable place to live”.