Pilot program connects volunteers with a place to stay in San Jose

Community service organizations say the high cost of living is scaring away potential volunteers. But now a pilot program hopes to help by matching recent grads doing a year of service work with empty nesters who have space to spare.

Brittany Hernandez signed up for a year of service helping in San Jose schools. But what she didn't sign on for was sleeping on a couch because housing was simply too expensive.

Now, she has several roommates.

"A lot of sacrifices have to be made but I love what I do and so it makes it worth it. But it also makes it very challenging to do my day to day life," said Hernandez. 

She's not alone. Most of her colleagues with service organization City Year, have lots of roommates, and at least one decided to live in his van.

Others chose to avoid volunteering in San Jose altogether.

"When we have a decrease in population interested in serving because of the cost of living, it creates a hardship for the community," said Pete Settelmayer with City Year San Jose.

A new program hopes to address that.

It's a partnership between Service Year Alliance, that helps young people looking to do community service, and Silvernest, which helps senior citizens rent out their extra rooms.

They say matching the two groups could benefit both sides.

"Maybe there's some people in San Jose who are older Americans and who might be really interested in helping us make our vision of service at scale a reality," said Rosa Moreno with Service Year Alliance.

"You can offer to reduce the rent for some work around the house. So say for example somebody will mow your lawn or walk your dog," added Jennifer Hammer with Silvernest.

Service groups say it's an interesting idea, but that more needs to be done. They're already seeing fewer volunteers each year.

"It's important work, it's necessary work and we love what we do. It's just very hard to live sustainably here," said Hernandez.

Since the program has just launched, there isn't any information on housing matches yet. But, Silvernest says there are already senior citizens with rooms available.