Contributed photo/Alvaro Serrano

House workers this summer | Guest Column

By Winnie Brumsickle

San Juan Island

I’m writing to appeal to islanders to do what they can to help the seasonal housing crisis in Friday Harbor, and entertain the idea of housing some workers during the summer. Our retailers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and other business owners need your help to house the massage therapists, servers, housekeepers, bartenders, golf pros, housekeepers and other workers who keep the island economy rolling through our extremely intense, short tourist season. If you are sturdy in vetting and setting house rules, these folks can be wonderful sources of income and inspiration.

Two years ago my husband started nursing school so we had to get fiscally creative. We decided to take a risk with our family home and rent out rooms to seasonal workers. We hadn’t had roommates for over 35 years, so the prospect of inviting sloppy behaviors and extra dirt into the house was no small leap of faith. I’m grateful to Facebook as a primary vetting tool — if you want to see what people do when only their “friends” are looking, log on and take a look around. We also did background checks — a month of unlimited checks for $25 — which turned up exactly nothing on our collection of prospects who just needed a place to lay their heads so they could work.

I still couldn’t bring myself to share the kitchen with strangers, so we bought a toaster oven, hotplate and little fridge, and set them up in the utility room by the sink. The roommates were stoked to have their own little kitchen, and I discovered that they were expert at sharing spaces. The roommates weren’t the scary, late-night partiers we had dreaded. Far from it! They were wonderful, creative, conscientious, kind, hardworking professionals who brought tons of fun and interest into our lives. After we fell in love with each other; we’d have “family” BBQs and potluck-y gigs — no small task because everyone worked all the time (then slept, ate and did it again. And again). The roommates brought in a house massage table! One of them was into essential oils so the house smelled really nice! We loved the fresh air that these young people brought in. The very few inconsistencies of lifestyles were negligible and easy to work through sensitively. The extra income really helped. Consider housing some workers temporarily this summer. The town needs your help! So visit The Journal’s classifieds page at and click “Classifieds” from the menu or “San Juan Island Rental/House Share” Facebook page to find candidates for seasonal housing. Many are returning workers who already have references. Good luck!