It all came down to this: they needed space, and we had space.
The longer version is this: I had always wanted to host either refugees or LGBTQI+ displaced youth. But I had been traveling too much, and/or living in community housing with only a small space to call my own. When Reed and I got together, I thought it would be off the table indefinitely – Reed has many great characteristics, but flexibility is not one of them. Having other humans in our home would have been too difficult. Getting on the same page about cast iron is a network effects problem, after all.
But then something about the Russian/Ukrainian war broke his heart open, and he said to me one day “we have space, and they need space. We should host a family.” We have a large house – Reed and I both have bedrooms and our own offices, generally a necessity for two extreme introverts to be successful in the long run. We agreed he would move into my bedroom, and we would offer up his to whoever moved in with us. We knew it would be hard on us (doing this with an infant, while we juggle childcare and my return to office, for instance), but we agreed it was the right thing to do.
So Reed started investigating. There was a program the US Government was offering where you could expedite Ukrainian entry to the US by agreeing to sponsor them for 2 years – a place to live, cover their financial needs, etc – but it assumed you already knew them and were paired with them. The issue was too new for many organizations to be offering to pair folks up, and those that existed hadn’t been vetted yet. We finally found Nova Ukraine and registered with them to host a family. We were open to up to two adults and two children, so long as they would be ok in the single (quite large) room. We thought that’s what we could manage financially and chaos-wise. Instead we got paired up with a young couple, Aleks and Viktoriia, and a few days later they moved in with us. They had only been in America for a few days at that point, and wanted to try out being in California.
The difficulties we had with them were all good problems. After a few days, they made it clear they wanted to help with the house – something I was initially vehemently against as their staying with us was not contingent on them doing labor for us, but they made it clear it was about autonomy and contributing as equals. We also agued in a friendly way about our paying them for taking care of Locke or the cats – it is labor, and also they love them and like spending time with them.
Frankly, we don’t know if it’s possible to have been happier with who we were paired up with. We shared many meals together, we found a good balance of taking care of the house together, we all doted on the cats, and we were all quiet folks who were willing to take care of cast iron pans the same way.
The hardest part was perhaps that Reed and I don’t have a car, and there were many things Aleks and Viktoriia wanted to go see or experience, including ESL adult learning classes that were far away. We first loaned them our Bromptons as they’re easily adapted to various heights. Eventually, we went to Rivendell to test ride some bikes to show them what actual bicycles are like, and they loved it! So Reed sourced some bicycle frames and parts from the community, and I paid for anything that needed to be bought, and he built them up two bicycles for their own use. And then they took to it immediately – going for rides regularly, and even being game to ride to San Ramon for ice cream (a relatively serious ride it took me months of riding to get into condition for).
But their true dream was to live in LA, not some suburb in the Bay Area. So after their working papers came in (something I helped expedite by navigating bureaucracy), they found a new set of folks to stay with down there while they find employment and then move into their own place. We’re excited to visit them once they’re all settled. We miss them regularly, and we’re also happy to be back to our normal routines and space. I can pee with the door open again!
If you have the space, please consider sharing. It’s both a huge thing, and not a thing at all.