By Sarah McKinney Gibson
Amy was 53 years old. Her oldest daughter was away at college, and she and her husband had just begun paying for her to rent an apartment off-campus with some friends. And a room in their home in Piedmont, California was sitting vacant.
“Maybe we could find a college student willing to pay rent,” Amy thought. That way, “we could make some extra cash and our daughter could still use her own room when she came home during breaks.”
Amy put an ad on Craigslist, specifying that she was looking for a female student without pets. After receiving several strange responses, she was thinking about cancelling the ad when she got an email from Kashmir.
Kashmir, 27, was about to begin her second year with Teach For America in Oakland. She’d just found out that her roommate would be moving in with her boyfriend, and Kashmir was desperately searching for a safe and affordable place to live.
Browsing through Craigslist late one night, she came across Amy’s ad. “She has one of the most beautiful homes,” Kashmir says. “I was like, wait, I can move in with her and it’s furnished? It has a patio and heated bathroom floors? There’s street parking and I don’t have to deal with finding someone to sublet my place during the summer?”
The two spoke by phone. Kashmir remembers Amy coming across as rather strict. “She asked me a lot of questions and at the time it felt like she was looking for a very separate experience.”
For her part, Kashmir wanted Amy (who is white) to know she was black. “I grew up in Los Angeles with so much diversity,” she says. “It wasn’t an issue for me to live with people of a different ethnicity. I just wanted to be transparent in case it was for her.”
It wasn’t. Kashmir moved in and within six months they’d become close friends. Kashmir ended up living with them for five years.
Amy and Kashmir have traveled together — to Chicago and Europe. Steven, Amy’s husband, has given Kashmir career advice and helped her negotiate job offers when Kashmir transitioned into the private sector. For a time, the two carpooled into San Francisco for work.
Kashmir’s parents flew up from LA to attend Steven’s 60th birthday party. Kashmir makes sure to see Amy and Steven’s oldest daughter whenever she’s in New York. And even though Kashmir moved to Seattle two years ago, Amy continues to host a weekly TV night for Kashmir’s friends.
“It’s been one of the best things that’s happened in my life,” says Amy. “I met all these wonderful women now in their early 30s. It was a whole world that I wasn’t exposed to, and I just adore each and every one of them. Kashmir will forever be a part of my life.”
Kashmir feels the same way. “Amy is like my fave. It’s been amazing.” Without the homesharing experience, the two would never have met. “Young people are just trying to find our place in the world and, I think, living with someone from a different generation and getting a different perspective is so helpful.”
Okay, so what about older homeowners who might have a vacant room but resist the idea of renting it to a young person? “Just try it,” says Kashmir. “Doing things that make you uncomfortable — that’s when you grow.”
Need more convincing? Check out this video (screenshot below) from PBS NewsHour about another intergenerational friendship created by a homesharing experience in Boston.
Ready to connect the generations through homesharing?
Encore.org has partnered with the homesharing platform Silvernest plus national service programs Teach For America, City Year, and the Service Year Alliance to connect older people willing to rent a room in their homes with young people starting new jobs serving their communities and struggling to make ends meet.
The pilot is now active in four cities: San Jose, San Francisco, Denver and Miami. Click a city to learn more about what’s happening there and to sign up. If you have friends in any of these cities who might be interested, please share!