Vincent Quayle thinks there are about 35,000 people living alone in Baltimore in three-bedroom houses. And he thinks that's a shame.
"We've always said that's a terrible use of space," said Quayle, the director of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.
Quayle was addressing about 100 people yesterday who celebrated Valentine's Day by giving testimony to St. Ambrose's home-sharing program, which matches homeowners with people needing affordable housing.
In the past three years, the home-sharing program has matched 125 couples and families, helping a total of 360 people.
Ethel Allen and Bertha Sturdivant have been living together now for a year in Allen's Edmondson Village rowhouse in West Baltimore.
Allen, 75, had been living alone for a year after her husband died when her daughter told her about St. Ambrose's home-sharing program.
"I wasn't doing it for money. It was because I was getting lonesome from being home alone for a year. You get mighty lonesome," Allen said.
Allen wanted a tenant who didn't smoke and drink and was a churchgoer. And she discovered that St. Ambrose would ask all those embarrassing questions for her.
Along came Sturdivant, 47, a churchgoer who needed an affordable place to live, but didn't want to live with anybody who smoked or drank or threw loud parties.
Ten days after Sturdivant contacted the home-sharing program, St. Ambrose matched the two women.
And they've been living contentedly together ever since, they both said at yesterday's celebration.
After a year together, Sturdivant said of Allen, "There's nothing I can't talk to her about."
When Sturdivant caught the flu the other week, Allen nursed her back to health. "Sure enough, here she comes with chicken noodle soup," Sturdivant said.
Mark Benson is coordinator for the home-sharing program. He said it has matched all kinds of people, including foreign graduate students, single parents and the elderly. Some of the ++ home-sharing situations are indefinite and some are intended to be only temporary.
St. Ambrose staff members conduct follow-up interviews after the clients start living together.
"In two months, we call back because the honeymoon is over and we want them to talk it out if there are any problems," Benson said.
Home-sharing is nothing new to Pat Kropman, who has been caring for the elderly and sharing their homes for the past 17 years.
She met Mary Jane Palmisano, 81, through the St. Ambrose program about a year ago when Palmisano was ill. She moved into Palmisano's Towson home and began cooking, cleaning and taking general care of the elderly woman.
Paul Swenson shared a home with Carl Oulten for a year in north Baltimore. Both were divorced single parents. Between them, they had five children.
"We were both in tough economic situations and it enabled us to catch our breaths and regroup," said Swenson, who has since remarried and moved out.