LSS Host Homes creates long-lasting connections: ‘He’s part of my family now’

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Joann and Zach solving a puzzle together on a dinner table

Joanne Larson learned about LSS Host Homes through her sister. “I was working at a different job, and my sister works for Jodie and Scott Johnson at their office supply business,” remembered Joanne. “She sent me an email asking if I knew of anyone who might be interested in taking care of their son, Zachary.”

After learning more about Zachary and his family, Joanne got to thinking. “I’m sitting at this job that I didn’t really care about, and I said to myself, ‘I think I could probably do this.’” Joanne met with Zach, Jodie, Scott, and LSS Host Home statewide director Laura Vogel and learned more about Host Homes and the responsibilities of providers. They all agreed Joanne was the right choice to be Zach’s provider.

LSS Host Homes, a service of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, connects providers like Joanne with individuals looking to receive support in a family-style environment. Providers complete their county foster care licensing process and receive specialized training to care for the individuals who live with them. LSS Host Home providers are licensed to support one or two individuals.


Reverse Host Home

Typically, the person supported moves into the provider’s home. Zach, however, lives in a reverse host home: Joanne moved into his house instead.

“The biggest difference between a regular Host Home and a reverse Host Home is who owns/leases the home,” explained Laura. “If the person supported or their family owns the home, we recruit a provider that is interested in moving into their home.”

Zach’s three-bedroom, single-level home is located outside of Aitkin, Minnesota. “It’s a very nice home, with a beautiful fenced-in backyard,” Joanne said. Located in a peaceful, rural setting, Joanne and Zach enjoy watching wildlife roam nearby.

Joanne says that Zach’s day typically starts later, as he likes to sleep in. However, “every day is different,” said Joanne. Both of them have family nearby to visit and enjoy going shopping together. When they are at home, they watch TV or put puzzles together. 

They went on a dream vacation to Disney World last year. “That’s his happy place,” Joanne said, “Seeing his face just light up while he was there was a blessing.”


‘He’s part of my family now’

Joanne and Zachary have been a Host Home family for more than seven years. Zach’s mother Jodie believes their entire family has benefited from the LSS Host Homes service.

“Zach has that independence that every human being wants to have,” said Jodie, reflecting on Zach’s LSS Host Homes arrangement. “It’s given Scott and me much needed respite from taking care of him daily. It’s given his sister peace of mind to see him live a life on his own — she’s proud of him for being away from mom and dad.”

“He’s surrounded by a great team of people that care for him through LSS, Aitkin County and his family, including Joanne,” Jodie continued. “She treats Zachary like he is her son. That makes Scott and me feel so confident that he’s taken care of.”

For Joanne, being a Host Home provider has given her a new family member. “He’s part of my family now, and he’ll always be in my life.”


Contact LSS Host Homes to learn more.

LSS can support Host Homes across Minnesota. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Host Home provider or know someone looking for family-style support, please contact us at or call 651.255.2363.