TAKOMA PARK, Md. - It’s something you read about in books or see on television, but for friends Holly Harper and Herrin Hopper, it’s a reality.
The two single moms found themselves in challenging times at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in 2020.
Needing support, the two took a daydream and made it a reality when they bought a house and moved in together with their children in June 2020.
They then started renting out other spaces in the house to other women, eventually forming the Siren House.
The Siren House, located outside Washington, D.C., contains four separate apartments. (Holly Harper)
What is the Siren House?
The Siren House is a four-unit home located in Takoma Park, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C.
"We are here for emotional support, friendships, sharing bottles of ketchup," Hopper told FOX Television Stations.
"What I think Siren House is...is a safe place for people to be while they figure out things that are hard," Harper added.
The massive home offers communal-style living space with each woman able to have their own living quarters with their own bedrooms and bathrooms.
"We are here for emotional support, friendships, sharing bottles of ketchup," Herrin Hopper said. (Holly Harper)
How did the Siren House get started?
Harper and Hopper said they have been friends for more than six years, but hard times fell on both of them.
Harper said between 2018 and 2020, she went through a divorce, health scares and deaths in the family, including her father who died from COVID-19.
Hopper was also going through her own ordeals, including a divorce.
The ladies often talked, sometimes about finding new places to live. They joked about going in on a house together.
"And it was like if we’re both looking for houses, why don’t we look for duplexes,’" Harper had asked Herrin. "Why don’t we look together, so we can have one another, coming off of all of this hard, hard stuff?"
The word siren is a spin on the Greek mythical women-bird-like creatures who lured sailors with their sounds and led them to crash on the rocks. Hopper said they wanted to "flip" the narrative, turning the creatures into inspirational characters.
"It was a sense of sort-of female empowerment if you will, and being able to survive hardships," Hopper said.
Harper proudly admits the unconventional living arrangements throw out "the rule book" of life on getting an education, getting married and buying a home that many women are taught.
How does the Siren House function?
The ladies modified the house when they moved in. They were able to divide the home into four apartments. They added a trampoline, fire pit and a garden to the backyard.
Hopper and her two children share three bedrooms, a bath, a dining room and a kitchen. Harper and her child share a similar space. A single mother and another woman occupy the remaining two units.
The ladies say it’s imperative that everyone understands privacy and respects each other’s personal space.
However, the friends and their families get together to celebrate birthdays, holidays and host other events.
But there are rules.
Some of the rules include no smoking. Also, anything a tenant wants to get rid of should be offered to other tenants in the home first.
"The number one rule is to love and support each other" Hopper explained.
When conflicts arise among the women and-or their children, they said they talk it out. However, they explained conflicts aren’t as big of a problem one might predict in a house with four separate families.
"All we’ve really done is that...what if you could choose your neighbor?" Harper explained. "And then you get that built-in trust, that built-in community."
They add that the children get along as well.
And if you’re wondering about dating, yes, tenants are allowed to have guests.
How has Siren House helped Harper and Hopper?
Numerous studies have highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s mental health. The pandemic sparked a wave of business closures. Millions of people were forced to stay at home, many of them alone. In surveys, more Americans reported depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. Adding to that dangerous mix, firearm purchases rose 85% in March 2020.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ladies said they have both healed in many ways through the Siren House.
"It’s been nothing short of...foundational for who I am and who I continue to become," Hopper continued. "I could not have done that without this community."
The women encourage others to reflect on their lives, and if need be, figure out a new path to living that works best for them. They also encourage people to seek out a community for emotional and mental support.
Meanwhile, both Harper and Hopper are working to buy and recreate another house, similar to Siren House.
"We’re still trying to pay that forward and make this accessible as an idea and as a reality for others," Harper said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.