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13. Le temps pour toit

13.1. Short description

The project Time for Roof emerged in 2005 in the specific context of the years 2003-2005: the heat wave of the summer 2003 caused an enormous number of deaths of elderly people and highlighted the issue of isolation for elderly people living alone. Most French experiences of intergenerational cohabitation have been initiated in this context since 2004. In addition, the project aimed at addressing the lack of cheap lodging for students and young people undergoing professional integration.

The association Time for Roof defines its objectives as follows:
  • to propose a local and affordable accommodation solution to students and young workers;
  • to find local and inexpensive solutions to enable older people to remain in their own homes;
  • more generally, to offer a solution to people for whom everyday life becomes less easy to manage because of ageing, loneliness, family situation;
  • to promote solidarity between older and younger generations by the exchange of concrete services (housing for help) and mutual support between the householder and the home-sharer.

This initiative supported 82 “duos” of householders and home-sharers in 2011. In total, since the beginning of the project, 350 duos have been accompanied by the organisation. Time for Roof offers users different types of contracts, depending on the needs of the elderly people and the personal commitment of the young people. The economic model is based on a mix of monetary contributions and solidarity-based mutual help. The financial contribution is inversely proportional to the quantity of services rendered or regular presence given: for householders, the more presence they need, the more they pay; for home-sharers, the more they commit themselves to the relationship and give time, the less they pay.

13.2. Conception and ways of addressing users

The association Time for Roof proposes innovative services to its users: exchange of housing for support, reinforcing social and solidarity ties, enabling elderly people losing autonomy to stay at their homes, providing support and mediation between the users. The exchange of time and presence between the users constitutes a fundamental dimension of the project. In the context of home care services for elderly people, it can be seen as an innovative aspect in a context of rationalisation of home care professional interventions. Professional caregivers have to fulfil more standardised tasks and have less time to share with the elderly person. By contrast, exchanging time and reinforcing social ties are at the centre of the Time for Roof project.

Furthermore, the direction taken by the Time for Roof cofounders is to put the emphasis on intergenerational cohabitation as a way to address limits of home care services for elderly people losing their autonomy. The solution proposed by Time for Roof is complementary to “professional” home care services in the way that it does not replace the services of personal care attendants or family caregivers but gives additional help in the form of presence in the evening and during the night: generally it is the moment when people are left alone and may face difficulties. It can be considered as a preventive approach in care for elderly people. It helps people to stay living in their homes longer and postpones recourse to other more complex and expensive solutions. This trend corresponds to a real demand from elderly people: in 2010, 60 per cent of the new contracts were dedicated to such situations.

As a consequence, the evolution of the householder’s profile has led to a modification in the profile of the home-sharers. At the beginning of the project, a majority of students was contacting the association. Nowadays, home-sharers are mainly workers being in a phase of professional transition or attending vocational training that requires them live for a temporary period in Nantes. The average age of the home-sharers is 31. Some of them, generally women, face difficult social or family situations (divorce, hospitalisation of a close relative, etc.). They look for cheap accommodation and very rapidly see the advantages of such a solution, especially from the financial point of view: they “pay 10 times less than if they were renting a classical accommodation”. At the same time, these people can be defined as mature and competent, ready to go live with elderly people in more difficult situations.

The exchange of housing for services and a regular presence is made possible thanks to the mediation and support of Time for Roof. The mediation, paid for by the users, consists of different key components, on which depends the success of the home sharing: the selection process of the users; establishment of personalised contact; presentation of the rights and obligations of the users; preventing conflicts between the users; providing capacity-building. Time for Roof plays a role in conflict prevention and management by watching over the situation of the users. Indeed, the situation may become explosive between the two people; the health of the host person may deteriorate rapidly, requiring a decision to be taken urgently. The organisation stays in contact with the users and organises regular meetings with the householder and the home-sharer, generally every month and a half or every 2 months. Training sessions play a major role of support to the home-sharers, especially for those signing a totem contract: professionals help home-sharers to better understand the situation of the elderly and analyse difficulties they may face. The global support provided to users plays a major role in the success and sustainability of the duos, especially in the case of totem contracts.

13.3. Internal organisation and modes of working

In order to develop its sustainability, the association considers itself as part of the social and solidarity-based economy and promotes hybridisation of sources of funding (public, private, non-monetary). Concerning the Time for Roof budget in 2012, one-third comes from the users’ contribution, one-third corresponds to the funding of the paid staff from the Regional Council and Nantes Metropolis, and one-third comes from external funding through calls for projects (public institutions and private foundations). In addition, it is worth mentioning that the association also develops voluntary work: 15 volunteers are recruited for their skills and involved in different types of activities (organisation of conferences and public events, communication, support for users).

The internal organisation of the association raises the question of the quality of work. For the time being, the working team is composed of six full-time paid staff members. The salaries are co-funded by the Regional Council and Nantes Metropolis for a period of 8 years. Each year, the amount financed by the Regional Council is reduced and not compensated by Nantes Metropolis, which means that the association has to develop its own resources in order to keep the paid staff at the end of public funding. In addition, salaries are relatively low.

Working on time-limited projects and contracts that are project-based is not considered as an innovation by the staff. On the one hand, it shows the capacity of the organisation to adapt its work to new constraints and to develop new and innovative projects (for instance, the new project on social housing landlords). On the other hand, this organisational form is not supported by regular funders and well-established welfare policies, which would guarantee continuity of funding and prevent a too high dependency on short-time projects.

13.4. Interaction with the local welfare system

The association’s cofounders intend to create an impact on the local welfare system. Their main focus concerns intergenerational cohabitation as an alternative solution for keeping elderly people living in their homes. The Time for Roof association raises public awareness through the publication of newsletters, the organisation of public conferences on intergenerational cohabitation, participation in public events organised by vocational training institutes, pension funds, complementary medical assurance funds, etc. The organisation has developed links within the health and home care local sector: professionals, doctors, home care services, not-for-profit organisations, Municipal Social Action Centres and sociologists working on the theme of care for elderly people. The doctors and professional caregivers they are associated with see the positive effects of intergenerational cohabitation on the health of their patients.

Since its creation in 2005, the Time for Roof association is regularly invited by national and local public institutions (ministry of Social Cohesion, General Council, Nantes municipality, etc.) to participate in working meetings aiming to create strategic priorities in the field of care for elderly people. However, Time for Roof is seen by public institutions as the organiser of an experimental project that is still under construction and not yet as a regular partner in the elaboration of policies. This situation raises the question of the diffusion at a larger scale of such an initiative if intergenerational cohabitation has to be recognised officially. For the time being, there is no juridical framework, the host and housed people do not have an official status recognised by the State, and neither does the signed contract.

For the time being, two French networks of non-governmental organisations exist in the field of intergenerational cohabitation (Cohabitation Solidaire Intergénérationnelle and Logement Intergénérationnel Solidaire). The lack of public recognition of intergenerational cohabitation and visibility of the associative stakeholders involved in this field may be explained by their financial precariousness and the competition existing between them. As a consequence, we observe the weakness of intergenerational home sharing organisations’ coalitions. They lack a common strategic vision and wish to collectively develop advocacy actions towards governmental institutions. Competition between organisations constitutes a real obstacle to social innovation sustainability.

Last but not least, Time for Roof has succeeded in disseminating the project in other locations and for other target groups. In 2007, it reproduced the project in the City of Angers. According to the founders, the local context was easier in Angers: contrary to Nantes, where they are in competition with another association, Time for Roof received the full support of the City of Angers to develop its project. Today, the project is well developed in Angers and one full-time paid staff member works there. In 2012, the association obtained funds from social housing landlords, Nantes Metropolis and the Regional Council to develop a new project in the disadvantaged residential districts. Until now, intergenerational home sharing was not developed for rental lodging, especially social housing, and the most socially excluded people were not addressed by Time for Roof. In the framework of this project, the association comes across new profiles of users and new social needs. In addition, the association should also soon begin a new project in rural areas.


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13. Le temps pour toit