CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A grassroots organization right here in the Lowcountry is trying a unique solution to the affordable housing problem.

CoLife pairs homeowners with people looking for a place to stay. The organization takes into consideration personality traits, lifestyles, pet peeves, and more to find the perfect match.

Founder Derek Snook says while thousands of people in Charleston County can’t afford homes, the problem is less about the need for beds, and more about trust and human connection:

“I think the beautiful thing about CoLife is that it’s really about a bet… it’s a bet on the human heart… that there are really good people.”

The City of Charleston has tried multiple solutions, including opening complexes at subsidized rates, starting programs to get people back on their feet, and strategizing a 10-year-plan called the the “Come Home Project,” but Deputy Director of Housing and Community Development Mat Ojala says the issue of homelessness persists:

“We need support at all levels of government, support from private industry, and support from the community to come together and find these solutions…the affordable housing issue in the City of Charleston, is a big one, and we really need anyone and everyone to be involved to help people find solutions that help people access housing that is affordable for their budget.”

And that is where CoLife comes in. Snook founded the organization in 2019 with the goal of fixing the crisis with resources that are already on hand:

“Co life matches the massive demand for attainable housing — so nurses, teachers, hospitality and retail workers, city employees, graduate students — to the massive supply of 24 million Americans nationwide who live alone, in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house, and are the owner of that home. We are the platform that connects those two.”

Snook says that in his experience, the housing crisis has snowballed because Americans have fundamentally changed the way they live:

“Currently today, 30,000 people live on the peninsula. In the 1950’s, there was somewhere between 70 and 90,000 people that lived on the peninsula…three of the homes on Colonial Lake were boarding houses, a boarding house is just a home where the owner lives, and they rent rooms in their home.”
Snook is intimately aware of the lack of attainable housing in Charleston, “I decided to voluntarily move into a homeless shelter. And I lived there for a year.”

While there, he learned that the problem is less about math over the number of beds needed, and more about love: 

“I met a guy named David. David was homeless, he lost his wife, he lost his child, and I asked him, David what are people that are living in these kinds of situations really need? And I expected him to tell me the long list of things that I thought that I needed…and so I was shocked when he said Derek, we need the same thing that everyone needs.”

That thing that Derek is talking about is hope, and people across Charleston are hearing his call for compassion. Part two of this story airs this coming Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., when we get a firsthand look at how CoLife is working for one Lowcountry homeowner.