Interview with Wilhelmina Ford, Founder of ShareAbode

Finding a new home - which meets all of your requirements AND is affordable - can be challenging. The idea of co-living - while it may not be everyone’s first thought - is an option which has a host of benefits. ShareAbode is a free online platform, which connects single parents to facilitate co-living. I spoke with Founder, Wilhemina Ford about her business and how it can help single parents.

How did you come up with idea for ShareAbode?

When I became a single mum, my son was just on 2 years old and my daughter was just on 3 months. I was fairly new to motherhood as it was, and then with the single mum status on top, it was even more to digest.  I had moved and had sold my business and property (I'd had for 10 years). I was emotionally, physically and spiritually in a place I didn’t know how to navigate.  My babies were my inspiration and gave me courage for pushing on.  My first step was finding a place to call home (instead of staying in holiday accommodation) and getting our stuff, so I could make it feel ‘normal’ for us.  I looked for rentals for many months and the travel back and forth from open home to open home was so hard with two little bubs. Also, to get all the paperwork and applications done before actually getting accepted, was so difficult that I had to ask for help.  My mum ended up helping me and even went on as the lease guarantor because I couldn’t show an income (as I sold my business, they wouldn’t go off the amount of savings from the sale, just the serviceability). This was really how ShareAbode was born.

What influenced your decision to turn it from just an idea into a business?

When I got a rental, after 3 months, and got settled I joined some online single mums support groups and kept hearing similar stories to mine. It’s the saying, where your thoughts are your energy flows and that’s what happened.  I started talking about co-living and had someone co-live with me for a while and enjoyed it. It felt less lonely. It helped with paying bills and helped with some kid and household duties. I looked into the cost of making a system which would connect people.  I just felt I had to do something to make a difference. I felt like this path had chosen me.

When was the website launched?

The platform took 4 months to complete and was launched in March 2018.  It is only 10 months old and we have almost 2,000 sign ups for co-living.

Can you briefly explain how it works?

The co-living platform is free for all single parents that want to co-live or are considering it.  You sign up and then create a profile listing as a home seeker or a home sharer.  A home sharer is a single parent who has a home and wants to open it up to share with another single parent.  A home seeker is a single parent who wants to create a friendship with another single parent, so that can either stay in their home or they can look for a rental together.  It’s searchable by location.

The platform also has resources such as podcast and blog, with contributions from other single parents and experts that want to help support the vision of ShareAbode and single parents in general. 

What are some of the benefits of shared housing?

There are many different benefits. The most obvious benefit is the splitting of rent and expenses.  Helping lighten the load of financial expenses means that there is less stress about money and a less stressed parent is a much better parent.  There is also the splitting of duties around the house such as cooking, cleaning, washing, kids chores etc and this can also be a huge stress relief and can free up more time for parents so they can bring back some joy in their lives and some self-care. With less expensive bills, someone can afford to get that gym membership or that bag or buy their child that bike and this creates a feeling of happiness which is really what the journey of life should be about.  

The creation of friendship and support under the same roof is really empowering.  Single parenting is lonely and challenging - when there is support things are easier. Building a co-living relationship so you both support one another with the children and each others needs, goals and dreams can be a huge benefit.  And the friendship of having another adult to talk too, to run things by, to have a full house when the children are at their other parents house can be the difference between depression and loneliness and happiness and security.

The less obvious things are that children do love being with other children and it gives them a playmate - they can become really great friends for life. They also share the load of the chores and can learn about relationships from one another and the two single parents. They also learn to rely on another adult which can be liberating for them and they get to experience a journey that is inclusive of unique family blends and relationships.

There are also environmental impacts, sharing resources helps to reduce ones carbon footprint and it is sustainable and purpose choice living.

Do members need to go through any selection process before they can list on the site?

Members do their own selection process.  They put as much or as little information as they want on their profile. Usually people start with an email and then meet in person, then bring the kids in and then maybe trial a whole day.  ShareAbode doesn’t get involved in the relationship dynamics.  We are simply a connection portal and as adults it is up to them to make the choice they feel fits for them and their family.  I do send out a comprehensive step by step guide to co-living that offers proven strategies in meeting and building on relationships. The guide also has legal advice channels and ways to ensure a supportive home environment and co-living arrangement works.

Can you share any success stories of members who have used your platform?

I have had a few success stories.  I have two single mums on The Central Coast who have moved in together and have been living with one another for about 5 months now.  They took an instant liking to one another, are the same age, similar kids ages and values and moved straight in.  One of them had the home available and the other was seeking a home so it was much easier and quicker.

I have a single dad and a single mum each with two kids, platonic, in Pottsville, NSW that have recently moved in with one another a few months ago.  They met and got along and then found a home to rent together for 6 months to see how it went and so far it seems to be very good from what I hear.

Another one is in Brisbane.  A single mum with a new baby moved in with another single mum that has a 5 year old boy and it works well because Mr 5 is starting school next year so won’t be there much and she is a full time worker and so this young single mum can be home with her newborn most of the time by herself and she just has a room and common use kitchen and bathroom and they are getting along really well.

What has been the highlight of your journey since starting ShareAbode? 

Choosing one is hard, but I think when my son tells other people what I do. He says “We help mummies and daddies to find homes” - it melts my heart.  He includes himself in it because he has been in magazines and TV with the exposure of it and I talk to him about giving back and supporting and encouraging others and he has caught onto it.  

What is your dream for the future of ShareAbode? 

I would love ShareAbode to be the go-to platform and resource for the single parents in Australia for co-living support and advice - through the podcasts, blog and community which I am building around it.  I feel it’s important for us as a community to come together to really lift one another up, instead of pulling each other down.  And we are so strong individually, I know we can be even stronger together.  I’d like it to gain momentum enough to be recommended by Government housing and charities as the place to go for to co-live.  

Drawing from your own life experience, what advice would you give to someone who has recently separated? 

The early days are the most challenging.  It is a fog of emotions and decisions at that time are best left till things settle.  Being the best you for yourself, will be the best your children. Looking within and re-discovering who you are and giving yourself permission to feel the way you feel, is really important in the healing process.  Some of the most horrible experiences can bring the most beautiful ends. I know this from listening to the stories daily of those who have done this, and being someone who has.  It just takes some time and some love of yourself. Holding onto a vision of where you want your life to go will keep you grounded in the actions of moving towards that in the now.

Reflecting on your own separation, if you could change anything, what would that be? 

I wouldn’t change anything because I wouldn’t be who I am, where I am or have done the things I have done without those experiences.  I am blessed to have had them, because it has shaped a better future for us, that I never knew existed until it all happened.  Without my experiences of the past, I wouldn’t be able to help people today and tomorrow.

If you are going through a separation/break-up and want to know more about divorce coaching and how I can support you during this period, please reach out here.