The Houseasaurus Co-op has been a cornerstone of alternative living and social change in State College for 12 years. Now it’s at risk of ceasing to exist at all. The organization is desperately trying to raise enough money to keep the house alive.
Houseasaurus is an intentional living community run cooperatively by its residents. They do much more than just inhabit the same space, however. They share labor responsibilities, purchase food as a group, eat dinner together five nights a week, and make all house decisions democratically.
The co-op has always been occupied by a unique collection of people from different backgrounds. The identity of the house has shifted slightly from year to year as residents come and go, but the core values of the house have remained the same.
“Houseasaurus has strived to be a place where everyone feels welcome and truly expresses themselves,” current house resident E Reichard said. “It upholds a strong value of social responsibility, and has played an active role in promoting those values to the community. One always feels at home in the co-op, no matter where they come from. That’s what makes it special.”
The pillars of Houseasaurus are queer positivity, environmental sustainability, social responsibility, diversity promotion, and egalitarianism. Well-known for drag parties attended by hundreds of students every semester, the co-op has helped to create a safe space and foster a strong sense of community for those who fall outside of the mainstream Penn State culture.
“It’s a place where I can be me without worrying about who I’m supposed to be. I can wear a dress or a t-shirt and no matter what, everyone will be just as friendly and welcoming to me as everyone else,” said Zachary Ferreira, a student who frequents Houseasaurus social events.
Throughout its history, Houseasaurus has brought together students and community members. Residents have worked with a number of student organizations likr Penn State WORDS, Students Organizing the Multiple Arts, and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC). They have collaborated with Hearts 4 Homeless, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, and other local organizations to raise money and spread awareness for social causes, and often serve as an underground music venue where local artists showcase their talents.
Houseasaurus has been an agent for change since the beginning. The house has often been the primary organizing ground for protests and political activism, taking on issues from homophobic basketball coaches to Kappa Delta Rho. Residents of the house were even responsible for successfully campaigning for the first bike lanes in State College.
Unfortunately, when the property was purchased by a new management company in 2016, the relative autonomy with which the co-op had operated previously came to an end. In bringing the house ‘up to its standards,’ the management company painted over murals and removed the garden where the co-op had grown its own food. The expectations of the two organizations were incompatible, leading to conflict and frustration.
Ultimately, when it came time to renew their lease, the co-op residents turned down the opportunity, opting to move to a new house on Beaver Avenue.
The move was challenging, leaving the co-op in turmoil. Many of the physical house resources were lost in the transition, making it difficult for the members to maintain basic house operations. With only one returning resident, much of the organizational knowledge was lost as well. The six remaining residents are struggling to keep the house alive, let alone create a space where the vibrant, colorful culture the house is known for can thrive.
In the interest of preserving this part of the State College community for the years ahead, the volunteer board and current residents are now working to raise $12,000 through an online fundraising campaign. Funds raised will cover the costs of new house resources, like containers for food storage and kitchen supplies, legal and accounting fees, scholarships for low-income students who are actively participating in social change in the community, and creating a reserve of funds to help keep the house stable in times of need.