Hi Jo - thanks for your post.
Sadly my more recent experiences have drawn me to the same conclusions you are highlighting here - non regulation being the main one.
I think these organisations were set up in good faith, but have been eroded over the years with people using them (from both sides) for all the wrong reasons.
I do still think that there are some remarkable people out there who have a lot to offer, and hosts too (like myself) who can give a lot back, but they are being crowded out by people who really should not be on these sites.
This of course, comes back to your comment about non- regulation.
Many volunteers and hosts offer first class references, and I would always suggest offering a place to someone who has these references - it doesn't give new people to the site much of a chance, but it's what I would suggest, given some of the recent experiences I have had.
Vicki and Nigel who are the subject of my piece were incredible helpers, and 2 years out they are still on the road, enjoying life, and helping out all their hosts as they go.
I have had some abusive emails from prospective helpers, been approached by someone who is on the run, and wanted by the police and had a less than successful placement last autumn.
Suffice to say that the recent events of the last 12 months have made me re think my strategy on this subject.
There is always a middle ground to be found - I was alerted to the person "on the run" by fellow Helpx hosts, one of whom lives quite close by and another in Tasmania!
If you are a Helpx Premier Host, fellow premier hosts can track the enquiries of the volunteer by clicking on a button on their profile. This is how these people were able to warn me that I too had been approached by this person, and I was very grateful for that.
I am unsure if there is the same facility on Workaway.
I contacted the site administrator of Helpx as did the other hosts, and he was eventually removed, although Rob (the site admin) said the profile and picture was false, and it would be just as easy to set up another profile with a new email address.....and again we are back to the same old chestnut of regulation.
How something as vast as Helpx or Workaway can be regulated I just don't know, but despite my adverse experiences this year, I would still use them again.
I network with local hosts and exchange info, and I have joined a closed FB page that also shares information.
Years ago, my parents welcomed strangers into our home on a cultural exchange with some Danish students - our small mining village in South Wales saw little excitement, and this annual event was always eagerly anticipated.
My point? That too was a risk - having any stranger over your door is a leap of faith, and a step into the unknown.
Ultimately, its a personal decision that only you can make if you decide it might work for you.
Clearly, there is a risk that it might not.