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Washtenaw United: HomeShare Program Provides Affordable Housing And Companionship For The Elderly

Susan Smith
United Way of Washtenaw County

Providing affordable housing for low-income residents can be difficult, especially those who are senior citizens.  Fortunately, Michigan Medicine created the HomeShare program, which allows seniors to share housing with other individuals.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair has a conversation about this amazing program with Janet Hunko, director of the Housing Bureau for Seniors at Michigan Medicine, and Judy Slater, who volunteers regularly with HomeShare.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


One of United Way of Washtenaw County’s goals is to increase the number of vulnerable, low-income older adults that are able to “age in place”, and stay healthy and independent in their homes.  Data show that: 

  • Over half of older adults in our county live alone
  • 47% of older adults report not having someone they could borrow $100 from in an emergency
  • Studies show that being isolated is just as bad for older adults as smoking and leads to worse health outcomes than being obese. 

Our strategies:

  • Help older adults with interventions when they are in crisis.  (Examples: financial assistance to prevent utilities shut-off or eviction) 
  • Help connect them with other resources in the community. (Examples: connection with a social worker that can assess if they have other needs, such as home repair or meal delivery)
  • Provide social interaction and programs to keep older adults connected to their communities. (Examples: Senior café group meals or senior center activities)


Janet is the director of the Housing Bureau for Seniors at Michigan Medicine.  Before being promoted to director in 2014, she was the bureau's forclosure prevention coordinator.  Her duties included:

  • Perform independent psychosocial assessments which includes determining the clients’ capacity to maintain home ownership. 
  • Develop and implement complex case plans which include linkages to community resources, budget counseling and possible loans. 
  • Manage and administer two loan funds. 
  • Serve as chairperson of the Washtenaw County Foreclosure Task Force
  • Coordinate and implement tax preparation program.
  • Recruit, train and supervise volunteers and social work interns. 
  • Develop, implement and maintain appropriate public relations and community education. 
  • Assist with fundraising activities and agency advocacy efforts. 

Janet is also a part-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University.


Judy is originally Kansas and grew up in California.  She came to Ann Arbor in 2010 to be closer to her son and has lived here on and off since then.  She currently lives in her second HomeShare as a “seeker” and is pleased to say she has maintained friendships with both HomeShare “providers.”  Judy’s life work has been in office administration and is currently semiretired.  Judy’s major passion is volunteering which she does regularly for HomeShare.


Housing Bureau for Seniors


Senior Living Week 2019

UWWC Data on Older Adults

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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