Tips on finding supportive housemates

When someone hasn’t popped up through our networks, we have tried various different ways of finding supportive housemates for my brother.

The most successful websites we have used are Gumtree and Easyroommate.

However, before advertising, I think the first step is to craft and detail the role and the kind of person you are looking for.

Clear Expectations

Start by working out in very concrete terms the kinds of things you want a supportive housemate to do. Being very clear about this means people can decide fairly quickly whether it is for them or not. For example, ‘some live-in support’ is vague but ‘assisting Math make a meal 3 nights a week’ or ‘introducing Anna to her neighbours’ are tangible expectations.

Creating ‘The Ask’

Then you can start creating a clear role description. And also what kind of person are you looking for? A homebody? An extrovert? A young person?  A calming influence? A gardener? This then provides such great clues to where to begin looking. For example, where might you find people into gardening in your community?

We’ve always been wary of just saying ‘we need someone who has experience in the caring professions’ or ‘we need to look for special ed, therapy, OT students’. We have found people so willing to learn about Math’s individual needs, they really don’t need disability experience.

Then begin stating things as roles. For example, “We are looking for a gardener and homemaker. This involves (then you can start adding your specifics in here)…..”

A role helps people visualise what is being asked. It helps people connect their life experience with your ask. It helps move people away from the idea that they need specialist disability training or particular expertise. In this way you are ‘opening up your market’.

Promote the Benefits

This involves a kind of ‘marketing’ approach – why would someone choose this experience? For example, my family knows that we are offering an absolutely AMAZING rental subsidy for Sydney. Math lives close to public transport in one of the original houses in his suburb. He offers people an opportunity to save for their first home. He has a gorgeous manageable garden. There are well-defined private spaces in his home. He offers someone a chance to re-establish themselves.  For example, Math has lived with a guy from Austria studying his PhD. One of the things he was attracted to was a more family/people situation. He didn’t want to be isolated or just live in student accommodation.

This also helps to get out of burden-thinking mindset and into wonderful possibilities territory.

What is it worth?

Then look at it all and think “what is this worth?” There is no fixed rule on this. Think about the market rent. Think about what you are asking the supportive housemate to do and the time commitment. Would you offer a partial rental subsidy, a full subsidy, an allowance, help with the cost of utilities?

Your role description and your marketing ideas then combine to create a fantastic, inviting advert. Then you can think of all the avenues to send your information out so it reaches your target.

Some Safeguards

Thinking about how you shape and introduce the role is so vital. The key is to support the development of relationship naturally. It is very easy for such a role to become like a pseudo-support worker role.

Think about how you are going to create a sustainable living situation. These are things like space and time together and apart, coming to understand each other over time, paying attention to how a relationship develops and how the rhythms of life ebb and flow for people and how people get to feel like it is their home.



  1. says

    Hi Libby, this is great information for other people/parents who are looking for supportive people in the life of the loved one with disability. I am currently coordinating the series of workshops aimed at preparing people living with disability for the decisions and choices they will need to make one’s the National disability insurance scheme is implemented. I will forward the information on to them. Hope everything is going well for you and Matthew, Kerry

  2. Libby Ellis says

    Hi Kerry yes I’ve been following your movements around these workshops. Great initiatives! Just talking with Sarah at Belonging Matters in Vic about capacity-building work and importance. Would love to talk with you about how you guys are thinking about it and how we are thinking of tackling it.

  3. Libby Ellis says

    PS If people like our facebook page they can get automatic updates and information directly.

  4. Bronwyn Moloney says

    Hello Libby
    Thanks for putting these tips together and making them available to those of us who see housemates as a great option for people with disability who are being supported to live great lives in their communities.
    You will be pleased to hear that it has been a pretty good year for the 10 people Kalpana is supporting here in Brisbane.

  5. Libby Ellis says

    You’re welcome Bronwyn! Great to hear it’s been a good year. You all deserve it! You can like us on Facebook ( to get automatic updates, articles and what we’re up to at this home I have created called InCharge!

  6. says

    Hi Libby,
    Thank you for a well thought-out and considered guide to p-ractical issues around promoting the wonderful opportunity that supportive housemates bring to people’s lives. i just did a workshop with Dee Sanders through Pathways to Leadership about asset based community development and found the methodical, measured work they do to be inspiring. Really looking at people’s gifts, talents and uniquness is how we should all be, in and out of work mode :)

  7. says

    hi your post is wonderful “Tips on finding supportive housemates” i am searching for a housemate with a friendly nature and a nice behavior your post help to what to look on them thanks for sharing it..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>