How do I assess my role and responsibility for housing an unemployed person in these economic bad times?
April 7, 2009 7:31 PM   Subscribe

I have been housing an unemployed friend for the past six months. How do I assess my role and responsibility for housing them in these economic bad times?

Last year this person was laid off, quit their next job (which meant they were no longer eligible for UI), went traveling for awhile (partially to look for a job in another state), and then returned and needed a place to stay. They moved in with an expectation that they would find a job and new housing in a few weeks. That didn't happen.

They pay no rent or utilities. They had a few temp jobs but were let go before they were completed. They would admit that they have problems with finances. Last year they got a car loan for a pricey used car (which imo is now a burden). They have no savings. Food stamps are used up way too quickly (imo). I have provided some financial assistance during this time. They occasionally have interviews for permanent work but nothing has come from that yet.

I feel like I'm paying for their past decisions. Trying to help them learn better financial habits (or giving pretty much any advice) usually doesn't go over well. I have a smallish one-bedroom apartment so space is limited. My personal life/privacy has been on hold during this time. Oh, did I mention that this person is an ex? Yeah.

Neither of us has many friends so it's not as if they can hop over to a friend's couch on the other side of the city.

On the flip side, I try to be helpful to fellow humans. I'm well aware of the high unemployment rates, etc. and I don't want to toss someone out onto the streets. A few weeks ago we struck an agreement that they would find new housing by the end of this month. (This seemed achievable as they were about to embark on a decent paying two month temp gig. But they were let go after calling in sick on day three.) I have a feeling that they will soon have reasons why moving out is an unreasonable demand.

How do people deal with eventually giving someone the boot when doing so could lead to Bad Things?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Holy hell, you have done enough. I am trying to get on full time at my job and would go in (and have nearly) feeling like I have the plague. And they are an ex? Jesus. I hope to someday have friends like you, but hope I never take advantage of them the way this person has.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

It is not your responsibility to house this person at all! Maybe he can't find a good job, a lot of people can't, but there must be work somewhere that he can get, in food service, retail, janitorial, clerical, something to contribute to costs. Give him/her a firm date on when they have to start paying a certain amount to you by. If they don't meet that date, they get kicked out and they can fend for themselves. I'm sure if homelessness is the only other option, they'll get off their ass and find a job. Moochers suck.
posted by fructose at 7:40 PM on April 7, 2009

Sorry, anon, but you're being a doormat. Ex hasn't found a job because Ex doesn't need to. If you want to be extra nice (and you've already been pretty nice), give them a week's warning, then out.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2009

You say, "How do people deal with eventually giving someone the boot when doing so could lead to Bad Things?" but frankly, I disagree. What you're doing now will eventually lead to bad things -- you're enabling them to relinquish responsibility for their own life.

They had a job and then got laid off and then quit their next job and now they've just lost a nice two-month gig by calling in sick on the third day (which -- is pretty much like calling in and saying "hey, why don't you go ahead and fire me, I can't muster up the interest to come into work a whopping sixteen hours into my employment"). If they had been laid off from a single job and you were putting them up while they found something else, it would be one thing. But that's not what's happening here -- they're making one self-indulgent, short-sighted decision after another. And they're doing it because you're allowing them to.

Put your foot down and ask them to move out by the end of the month. They will find a way to make it work.
posted by kate blank at 7:46 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar situation, a couple months letting a friend (no hs diploma, no college, no insurance, family, job prospects, etc...) stay at my place. I actually have a guest bedroom too. But this person took pretty little initiative. Eventually, we made a deal that I would buy a nice TV they had for the amount that a typical room in a shared residence would cost, in exchange for them leaving and from then on wouldn't use my place as an option other than in emergency. Well anyway, they half assed the apartment search and during that process managed to dump milk into my laptop, of course having absolutely 0 chance of paying me for anything. At this point I was furious and they have since left town to the nearest relative.

Anyway, my story serves no lesson other than the most important: be firm. People have to fall and get up, learn to take their own initiative and responsability. Laziness or 1/2 assed efforts should not pay off.

I'd say pick a date, let them know, and give them the boot.
posted by nzydarkxj at 7:50 PM on April 7, 2009

The agreement you originally made has long since expired. You are under no obligation to revisit the terms of your agreement (yet again!) in light of new circumstances.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 7:50 PM on April 7, 2009

You are not responsible for this person. You are not this person's parent. This person is an adult. You're right to see that you are not responsible for this person's decisions. It is not your fault if something unpleasant happens to this person after you cut off your generous support.

You are not the only resource available to this person. This person has a car to sleep in. There are soup kitchens and shelters. There are food stamps. If this person has friends or family, it is not your job to decide whether or not the help they might provide is enough. You've done enough.

How do I assess my role and responsibility for housing them in these economic bad times?

You are not responsible for the economy. You are not responsible for an adult who is capable of working.

How do people deal with eventually giving someone the boot when doing so could lead to Bad Things?

Set a firm deadline for this person to move out no matter what. Be prepared to stand by this deadline even if this person has not found a job or a place to live. Be prepared to put their stuff outside. Call a friend to help you if necessary.

You should feel good about that decision. It protects you, and you need to take care of yourself. It is unhealthy and unreasonable to expect to sacrifice your needs to the needs of others, even when they are your friends. At some point, you have to stop and make sure that your own needs are met. Be kind to yourself. This is a completely acceptable place to draw a line by any standard.
posted by prefpara at 7:56 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Give 'em a week. If it turns out they still haven't gone, then dump their shit in the front yard, change all the locks, and make yourself scarce so they don't guilt you into letting them back in.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by jayder at 8:22 PM on April 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

How do people deal with eventually giving someone the boot when doing so could lead to Bad Things?

Let the Bad Things happen. You didn't take him to raise.

He's a freeloader. Sometimes freeloaders end up homeless. Not your problem.

Your ability to live your life, free of the encumbrances of a freeloading, irresponsible ex, takes precedence over whatever bad things may happen to him.

It's really crazy to feel the obligation to personally house an adult who is irresponsible like this.
posted by jayder at 8:28 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

ways they can find someplace else to live
somebody they meet in a bar
they can live in the car
sell the car

all of which make it "no longer your problem"
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2009

Hi anon,

I swear this isn't meant to be flippant, but perhaps it would help if you framed the question as: How do I assess my role and responsibility for taking care of myself when I am surrounded by people who have needs.

Because it seems like you are assessing and prioritizing "what is best" based on prioritizing someone else's well being. Perhaps because they seem more vulnerable than you. Perhaps because you value helping others. Perhaps because you don't know how they will solve their problems. So here you are thinking and taking care of them, and they are thinking and taking care of themselves. That's a lot of them. And no you. Who is taking care of you? Not them. Not you. Which means you're kind of vulnerable too.

So I suppose I might ask it this way. Do you feel that you need to live by yourself again? Do you feel that you need your space? Do you feel like you are being taken advantage of? Because if the answers are yes, then you don't have to justify it. You don't have to explain it. You don't have to doubt it. You just need to accept it. And ask the ex to leave on your timetable.

You might feel guilt: I'm kicking them out", and you are. You are kicking them out. That is your decision, and your right. But you are not kicking them out onto the street. Let's be clear about that. Because it implies that you are responsible for their decisions. YOU are not kicking them out onto the street, anymore than the safeway is denying me food because I chose to spend it all on new clothes and a car I couldn't afford. They are doing that to themselves, by their decisions and their actions, by not researching resources, calling other friends and family, using their public assistance wisely, looking for a job 12 hours a day. So the question is how do you watch someone harm themselves. I think the answer is: with compassion, and with a clear sense of your own boundaries so they don't drag you down with them. Talk to friends. Pray for them. Weep after they leave for their poor choices because you see how it hurts them and others. But you can't solve their problems. You can only decide: this is how much I can give before I harm my mental and financial well being, and give that much. The rest is out of your hands. It always was.
posted by anitanita at 9:03 PM on April 7, 2009 [36 favorites]

Do you think they would have called in sick on the third day if they weren't living with you and had to actually pay rent and buy food?

The role you're in allows them to be irresponsible. Someone else probably could have used that temp job, but your ex took it and threw it away. I'd say Bad Things are already happening.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:45 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know they seem vulnerable, but.... after six months of freeloading on you? If it were me I'd feel so guilty and anxious to get out and leave you be that I'd go to work if it meant dragging myself along the ground by my fingernails!!! :) Unless that's what "sick" entailed for this person, I'm dubious about their priorities. Ditto (as you identify) with their keeping this car. For a stay of a couple of weeks to even a month, sure, and at two months I appreciate there's still even shades of grey - that's not *that* long to spend unemployed, and something might still be just around the corner etc etc - but at SIX months now of not having to pay rent, there's no question that it's time to sell assets in order to pack up and leave you be.

Whether gradually (dropping hints and such: "When it's just me here next month..." etc) or explicitly, I think you need to be making it clear *now* that the agreement still stands for you and as of the end of the month they're gone. That way they know they need to move quick, and have the opportunity to do so, so no shocked or even surprised reaction at the end of the month can confuse you into second-guessing yourself and feeling guilty. You shouldn't have to present them with options - they'll be better able to come up with them than you - but the ones people have noted above are good to have on hand just for your own purposes: these are all alternatives available to this person and they're still using you, because it suits them, and despite the interruption it's causing to your life. Why on earth should you feel bad? And how on earth can they feel justified demanding to keep staying with you after you tell them it's time to leave?
posted by springbound at 9:46 PM on April 7, 2009

I'm in this same, exact situation -- except the person is a good friend, not an ex. I'm struggling with these feelings as well. I don't want to create a homeless friend, my private life with my fiance is on hold, I have to wear clothes to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Feel free to MeFi Mail me if you ever need someone to vent or share ideas with. I have no answers to offer, only kinship.
posted by cior at 10:21 PM on April 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

You have already done plenty. Your ex has put him or herself in a lousy situation in spite of the fact you have jumped through a lot of hoops to help them; the portrait you paint is of a moocher.

As for Bad Things - what Bad Things, exactly? Are they going to invade your house and squat there, eating your food and running up your utility bills, screwing up your social life? Oh, no, wait they're doing that already. Steal your stuff? Fine, change the locks. Assault you? Put 'em in jail.

From your comment "I have a feeling that they will soon have reasons why moving out is an unreasonable demand." it sounds like your ex is one of those people who's great at winning arguments, irrespective of whether they're actually in the right - I know a few of them. Draw a line. You had an agreement. You've given them six months to get their shit together, they haven't, it's time to move on. Don't get drawn into an argument, and if it looks likely they'll try (or actually do) pull some stupid shit with you, your stuff, or your place, have your landlord, locksmiths, and, if necessary, the cops lined up.
posted by rodgerd at 11:48 PM on April 7, 2009

They had a few temp jobs but were let go before they were completed.

Strike one.

They would admit that they have problems with finances.

Strike two.

Last year they got a car loan for a pricey used car (which imo is now a burden). They have no savings. Food stamps are used up way too quickly

Strike three.

They're out! So, what you're saying, is that this person can't hold down even a temp job, spends money on stupid shit, and has been doing this for 6 months? Yes, times are tough, but given how this person lives their life, we could be in the midst of the biggest financial boom in history and they'd still be on your couch! There is nothing you can do for this person - they need to learn to swim on their own. Throw them in the lake already!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:49 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Of course another voice in the chorus saying, "Set a firm date." To me, one month, max. Someone makes a good point that, short of a near-death experience, the person almost certainly would not have called in sick on the 3rd day of a gig. Someone else made a good point, that the half-way reasonable, responsible, decent people would be all the more motivated to get a place b/c it beats sharing a 1br and wanna do it because it would stop clogging up your life.

When the day comes--real soon, we hope--for The Conversation, my thought is to take a firm, direct approach, relate the things (car, job shenanigans and such) that have not been handled wisely. Never hurts to prepare a little, go over it some in the shower or somewhere so you have a clearer sense of the points, at least a mental outline. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely do not let it turn into an argument, debate, etc. Prepare to say, "I'm sorry, but the decision is final" more than a couple times.
posted by ambient2 at 12:47 AM on April 8, 2009

I have been in a very similar situation to you, a few years back. We set a deadline (I would say one month). They moved in with parents. Eventually they found a job. It was ok.

You have to look after yourself otherwise this could become a bottomless pit. What happens if you lose your job?

Altruistic people put others first but you need to be kind to yourself also. If you want to help, charity donations are a much more efficient way of doing good.

Good luck.
posted by plep at 2:47 AM on April 8, 2009

You've already been accommodating and generous. You've tried every angle on accommodation and generosity that you can think of. It's not working. The results are not good -- not for you, and not for your ex. When you keep doing something that doesn't work, there's no natural endpoint to it. The dysfunction becomes addictive because, even as it erodes your health and well-being, it strings you along with tiny comforts (I'm being a good person, I'm avoiding conflict). This will stretch on indefinitely until someone changes their thinking and declares that enough is enough. The only question is, are you there yet?
posted by jon1270 at 3:24 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stick to the agreement that your ex must be out at the end of the month. This person has already had six months' free living space, and now has to find another place to live. If that means he or she has to leave the city to go live with a relative in another city, so be it. Enough's enough. Plant your heel on any lingering guilt or feelings of responsibility and grind down.
posted by orange swan at 4:52 AM on April 8, 2009

If this person were actually facing real consequences for their actions (i.e. hunger, homeless shelters, etc.) you better well believe those food stamps would be going towards stocking up on real staples (and/or stretched out with trips to reasonably OK soup kitchens-- dude has a running CAR and can shop cheaply and in bulk anywhere and even be picky about soup kitchen programs!)--- and he wouldn't be holding out for a job "worthy of him" to support his own ass. What does that mean? It means you apply for work stocking shelves, washing dishes, picking up trash, stopping by the day labor office every morning-- whatever it takes.
posted by availablelight at 7:29 AM on April 8, 2009

I had a friend who needed a couch to crash on for a bit. He stayed there for about a month. I told him that if he planned on staying at my place any longer he would need to:

A - Pay rent.
B - Take over my basement as his room.
C - Be expected to do his part in cleaning/taking care of the house/helping cook.
D - Clean up after himself. I told him that I was not his mother.

He moved out after I gave him my list. Plus I'm sure my obsessive compulsive brother had a lot to do with it. He moved back in with his parents where he does not have to do any of the above. Good guy I'm still best friends with him but in my experiences if you let someone stay at your place for over a week they will expect things to stay the original way forever. Now I'm not going to say that your ex is sitting there purposefully plotting his mooching moves but people where they live develop habits and these are hard to break. Most of the time people will not see what kind of burden they are truly being.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:30 AM on April 8, 2009

If you felt totally fine about letting someone stay with you and ride out a tough economic time, that would be one thing. And I know that you really wish you did, but you don't. Which is totally, totally fine, you've learned plenty about yourself as well as about this person. When you let them know it's time, let go of any of your built up guilt or resentment and just face this as the result of an experiment that you began without knowing what the outcome would be.
posted by hermitosis at 7:35 AM on April 8, 2009

I think these are just the kind of situations that requires clear, honest and open dialog. In a mature way, I think you need to confront this person with your feelings. In fact, sit down with them and read this AskMeFi discussion together. Point out that a lot of people would have been far less generous than you already have been, and that you are losing patience. As with anything, clear and firm expectation are important, and it sounds like you're already there with a move-out date set for about a month from now. Make it clear that you intend to follow through with that unless certain milestones are met (rent money, grocery contributions, etc.) if that is how you feel.

The most important thing in any conflict is to communicate. Make sure this isn't a passive-aggressive or angry confrontation, but rather make it a supportive conversation. Be sure to express your feelings and your expectations but also make a point to listen to him or her. There are probably a lot of fears/worries/neuroses bouncing around his/her head that are related to this rut.

Talk about it.
posted by alexherder at 7:39 AM on April 8, 2009

Be aware that this person will never return the favour. Once people take advantage like this, they get feeling a tiny uncomfortable with themselves and will assuage that discomfort by distancing themselves from the person who has helped them. When this person finally gets other arrangements, he/she is going to take some kind of imagined offense at you and never speak to you again.

Times are getting tough and likely to get tougher for quite some time. Are you signing on to see them through this whole "downturn"?

The moocher needs to move back home. Get back to his/her people.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:41 AM on April 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

If it helps, I'm someone who had to couch-surf some twenty-odd years ago, and while I made some bad decisions (attributable mostly to lack of work experience and bad advice), I would never have turned down or sabotaged work opportunities the way that your ex has. I think you may be surprised (or maybe not) at how quickly he finds work.

If you want "to be helpful to fellow humans", volunteer at a crisis hotline or homeless shelter a few hours a week. You can leave those behind when your shift is over, and they will probably be more grateful.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Be sure to assess the guy's mental health situation before kicking him out, make sure that if self harm is a risk of evicting him that he and/or his family have resources he can contact. Maybe you can pay for those, whatever. This assuming that you would feel bad if he walked into traffic after you evicted him (even though that would be his fault, not yours).

Anxiety and depression could certainly be part of why he is turning down and sabotaging work opportunities. I have the strength and knowledge to be able to work despite those feelings now, but I didn't always have them.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:23 PM on April 8, 2009

About seven years ago I let an ex stay with me while she "looked for a job". Anyway, after about a month I asked her to help with rent - to call her parents for it if she had to - instead she offered to pay with sex. I took her up on it. This lasted for a couple of months. We had sex about 5 times a month, more if she was horny. Anyway, after the couple of months, she cut me off because she started seeing someone new, so then I set a firm date for her to leave. She moved in with the new guy. Now we don't talk though I saw her the other day on the other side of the street.

Anyway, yeah. What everyone else said. Your ex is a mooch. Unless you're getting paid in sex, kick them out.

Sorry to be blunt, but it looks like nothing will change unless you change them.

Good luck.
posted by Sully at 9:06 PM on April 8, 2009

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