The pandemic has been a scary unknown, but one thing we do know is that we’re supposed to stay away from other people in order to stop the spread of the virus. This becomes a bit more difficult when you live in a home with 19 roommates.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what it’s been like living in Starcity (a co-living community) during quarantine, so I wanted to address it directly. If you haven’t been following along, I live at Starcity, and this property is basically 4 townhouses all connected together. There are 20 private rooms, 4 kitchens, 2 living rooms, and a huge rooftop deck spanning the entire building. It’s already an out-of-the-box concept in our individualistic culture (most people I talk to about it ask if it’s like a dorm or hostel – it’s not). But let’s add an additional layer – the pandemic.
So… the big question. What is it like to live in a communal household during COVID-19?
The simple answer is… it’s wonderful.
I honestly couldn’t be more grateful to have a built-in friend group and support system during this time of fear, change, and lack of clarity. The whole world has been upheaved, and at the same time we’re told we have to isolate and not see anyone outside of our home, lest we spread the virus and overrun our hospitals’ capacities. Prior to living here, I was living in a studio in a high-rise in Hollywood and felt extremely isolated. Thoughts of having had to spend quarantine in that environment are extremely triggering – I would’ve had a much harder time dealing with the situation had I been completely alone.
Being a social person, this environment of community is already such a blessing. Lonely? Text a roommate. Bored? Want to go for a walk but not alone? Text a roommate. Need help with something? Text a roommate. With so many roommates, it truly feels like a community, and a much more natural way to live. You can have your private space (your room) but outside of that you’ve built positive relationships with the group of people in your home so you can rely on and support each other, and always have a friend around.
We have a weekly bad reality-TV roommate night. We go on hikes together exploring LA. We get takeout together. My roommates have looked after my kitty when I’ve traveled. We help each other bring up packages and wash dishes and hang art and we can commiserate and complain and pump each other up. In our culture we basically move out of our parents’ homes ASAP, then maybe live with roommates a bit, but the goal is to “have your own place” until you meet your life partner and move in together. That could mean years of isolation. Some people find comfort in that, but I think most of us need human contact, which is why I’m completely obsessed with this concept of community living.
I know what you’re going to ask next… how can you trust so many people to stay safe and keep each other safe? Aren’t you scared that someone will catch the virus and spread it? Well, Starcity has done a wonderful job in keeping us safe. They’ve increased the number of times that common spaces are being cleaned, as well as giving us safety supplies such as gloves and antibacterial wipes. They also moved quickly to set up new quarantine rules, such as wearing a mask in common areas if you’ve been traveling, not having guests over, staying in your room if you have any symptoms, etc.
It’s felt safe. We also have an immune-compromised roommate, so we’ve all tried extra hard to be conscious of our own safety, for ourselves and each other.
So there it is. I know that communal living is such a crazy concept in the American culture, especially during a global pandemic, but I truly think it’s the way we should all be living. Having the support of a built-in community in your home is incredibly powerful.
No place has ever felt like home as much as my communal space in sunny Venice, California.
Julia O Test is a digital creative currently living in our Venice coliving community. She originally shared this post to her website as a glimpse into her experience of the pandemic at Starcity. Stay tuned for more from Julia about life on the Westside and all things Starcity.