Help make home wishes come true

This week, Whidbey residents are asked to dig deep into their pockets, rummage through bottomless purses, check under those couch cushions and find all the change they can. Now until Dec. 8, every penny, nickel and dime counts as Whidbey Island Share a Home comes into the home stretch of its third annual “Share Your Change, Share a Home” fundraiser.

“The myth is that everyone with a job can afford a decent place to live, but that’s just not the case,” said Julie Pigott, WISH director. “The fact is that working one, two or three jobs does not always pay for a home.”

That’s why, in 2004, Whidbey Island Share a Home was founded with the mission to provide opportunities for affordable housing on Whidbey. WISH is a self-match program in which home seekers and home providers are screened before they’re eligible to find the housing situation that fits their needs. Home providers and seekers work out the terms that allow the seekers to share the home at a reduced cost. Some exchange services such as errands, yard work or childcare, others simply enjoy being able to share in the cost of housing.

This is the third annual change drive for the organization that relies on donations and grants to keep going.

With only four days left, Pigott is eager to get the word out for the change collection push.

Getting involved with the change drive is easy. Pick up a house-shaped bank at any Whidbey Coffee kiosk, fill it with change — yours, neighbors’, co-workers’, family’s — and bring the filled bank back to the same coffee stand and receive a punch card for 10 free coffee drinks. Last year the event raised $14,000 for WISH, proving that for pennies people can share a home.

As of October, WISH has completed 71 home matches since the program began in 2004, averaging one match a month. Of that, 26 matches have been together for more than one year, eight are celebrating two years of sharing, and two houses have been shared for three years. WISH has processed more than 610 application requests for short- and long-term housing needs on Whidbey.

“There’s so many more people out there with housing needs who don’t even contact us,” Pigott said.

Sarah Dore saw a flyer this spring that advertised WISH at a local library and knew the program was a good fit for her housing needs.

WISH gave Dore an opportunity to get help with upkeep of her Honeymoon Lake area home and property. She works in Seattle and can be away from her Whidbey home for 12 to 14 hours each day.

“It bothered me to go through storms in the winter,” she said. “When I was in Seattle I didn’t know what shape my house would be in when I got back home.”

She contacted the office and had just about forgotten about WISH until Pigott called her this fall to tell her she’d found the homeowner a house share match.

Since October, Dore has shared her roughly 1,000-square- foot home with Albert Rose who found himself looking for affordable housing on Whidbey following his divorce just over two years ago.

“I couldn’t afford the rents on island, especially on the south end, and buying was definitely out of the question,” he said. “But I found a church in Freeland and a community I really enjoyed.”

Rose is self-employed as an artist, and picks up handyman jobs when he can.

“WISH was a great fit for me because a number of providers offer the opportunity to either reduce or work off rent,” he said.

So now, Rose has an Excel spreadsheet of to-dos that range from changing lightbulbs to installing a walkway around Dore’s house.

Rose likes the challenge of his handyman skills.

“I grew up on a farm in Oregon so I like to work,” he said.

And the reduced rent can’t be beat.

“This will give me the breathing room I need to get myself reestablished,” he said. “This business of being a starving artist is sometimes all too real.”

Sharing her home just comes naturally for Penn Cove-area resident Louise Mueller-Wright.

“It might not work for everyone, but it works for me,” she said.

Mueller-Wright is now in her 70s, but she has fond memories of her mother being a constant caregiver for children, bringing them into Louise Mueller-Wright’s childhood home.

Mueller-Wright and her husband even ran Fairhaven adult home for several years.

“I’ve always had different people living with me,” she said.

Then a few years back, the Whidbey General Hospital physical therapy program contacted her to see if she could house some of the program’s visiting interns.

“About six or so stayed with me,” she said. “They were the nicest girls.”

She first contacted the WISH program in 2004 and has had several house matches live with her. Now she has two WISH matches in her home, one for the last two months, the other has resided with her for two years.

The arrangement’s easy, her homeseekers pay rent, do their own laundry, sometimes everyone eats meals together, other times they don’t. It’s flexible and Mueller-Wright enjoys the fact.

“It’s nice to have people coming and going,” she said.

Why let strangers into her home?

“People ask me that all the time,” she said. “But they’re not strangers — they’re just people I haven’t met yet.”

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