Room to Grow

Kindred spirits: Jeffrey Peterson (left) says John Wertjes gave him the push he needed.

Establishing rules and expectations before entering into a host-home situation is key to the success of the relationship, says Jon Wertjes, a Minneapolis homeowner who arranged to rent a room to a gay 18-year-old two summers ago. When Jeffrey Peterson, now a student at the University of Minnesota - Duluth, moved in for a three-month stint, Wertjes drew up a lease that required the youth not only to pay a small amount of rent each month, but also to help with household chores, painting, and lawncare.

After a summer of going to movies, riding bikes, and getting to know each other, Peterson went off to college. But the two roommates still keep in touch, and the student often stops by Wertjes' house when he visits the Twin Cities. "He knows he's welcome in my home until he decides to live elsewhere," Wertjes says.

Peterson says he's grateful for Wertjes' hospitality. Living with a gay roommate gave him a sense of community and provided him with feedback and reassurance as he grappled with his sense of gay identity. The experience, he believes, would benefit other queer kids on the brink of adulthood. "I think what most kids need," he says, "is just a little push to get them sailing."

For further information about Project OffStreets GLBT Host Home Program, call Raquel Simões at 871-3613.

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