Unemployed troubled friend soon to be homeless, how to help?
February 2, 2010 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend who I think is likely to be homeless soon. I can't take him in, so what can I do to help him? We are in the northern Chicago suburbs (Lake County).

My friend has been out of work for a few months, is far behind on his rent, and is expecting an eviction notice any day now. He has some issues. He has epilepsy, also his teeth are a disaster, and I don't know if he has any particular qualifications for any job.

This guy has had troubles his whole life. His mom died when he was nine, his dad is on disability in California. He has a brother who lives somewhere downstate and has his own issues with mental illness. In short, he has no nearby family to help him.

I've helped him out a few times over the last few months with some money for medications, food, and to keep his landlord at bay, but I'm almost out of any financial assistance I can give him.

He is not unintelligent or unpleasant. I don't know what kind of employee he is, but his last job was at a gas station, which he lost under circumstances which might have been unfair but were at least partially his own fault. However I believe he is willing to work, and could be a good employee in the right setting. Unfortunately he has no car, no bike, no means of transportation beyond his feet. I'd be willing to buy him a bus card to help him get to a job if that's what he needed, and probably will give him one so he can expand his job search. Right now he's living in downtown Waukegan.

He doesn't have regular access to the internet. I've urged him to use the local library, but he also has a particular misdemeanor legal cloud hanging over his head which complicates that. I've urged him to disregard that since it doesn't actually preclude him from using the library, but I understand his reluctance. I think if he had regular net access he could use it to help himself find resources to help his situation, as well as use it to help himself become more employable, by learning new skills.

I want to help this guy. I think he could be a normal, productive member of society, but his problems are snowballing on him. I've thought about helping him get job training, get certifications; I've been trying to get him to consider getting an MS Office Specialist Cert, since I think that would be easy and he'd learn some skills which could be useful. I remember not too long ago when I approached a temp agency they about flipped when I demonstrated what I considered minimal proficiency in Office, and I know from my working since then that someone who shows reasonable competence in Excel is well thought of. I'd also consider helping him get other certs if it would help his situation. He had a lead on a job as a short order cook in a cafe/bookstore, but fell through because they needed someone with "Food Service Certification", whatever that is. And I've been thinking of suggesting he get a Commercial Drivers License (though I don't know if he currently holds or has ever held a regular drivers license).

Anyhow, I'm trying to think of how I can help this friend of mine. Both to find a job, and also to help him find a stable living situation until he finds some kind of a job. Any other pointers towards help for the poor or homeless would be welcome too.
posted by Reverend John to Work & Money (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If he's able to get the Metra into Chicago, there are a number of great resources that Inspiration Cafe offers. The page I've linked provides some information on the four-week employment preparation training classes they offer (next orientation session is Feb. 26). They also run Cafe Too, which offers a 13-week food service training course (though I think that's only open to Chicago residents). They also can provide help with housing. I'm sure they'd be happy to point him (or you) to resources that are more local to you, if that's necessary.
posted by carrienation at 2:01 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why isn't he on SSI and Food Stamps and Medicaid and Section 8? He sounds like he qualifies for all of these. Once he's feeling a bit more stable and secure he can check out whatever vocational training he wants.
posted by mareli at 2:03 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wow, I'd be out of ideas too if I'd given him that many concrete suggestions, and he couldn't or wouldn't follow up on any of them.

Is he acting like he wants help from you or anyone else? Has he discussed his employment situation or eviction with a social worker?

On preview, what mareli said. If he's mentally unstable, there's not much more you can't do. You can't think for him, or be in his shoes.
posted by Melismata at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2010

Woops, can do.
posted by Melismata at 2:08 PM on February 2, 2010

Is he eligible for disability services/funds? I think it varies by state, but if he has demonstrated significant work problems because of his disability he can get a check every month to help you.

Also, here is something he may want to look into.
posted by biochemist at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2010

Meant to say to help him.
posted by biochemist at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2010

Ask yourself a question: honestly, are you more concerned about his predicament, than he is? Because that's the way it sounds...

It sounds like, for instance, he's making excuses about not going into the library. If I had to choose between (a) going to the library to use the PC to look for work, yet risking potentially getting thrown out, or (b) being homeless ... well, what would you pick?

Does he even want to work? For real?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 2:39 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

meant to add: if you are more concerned about his predicament, than he is ... that immediately limits how much you can 'help'. I'm not saying toss him under the bus, but you can easily end up supporting this guy, if your concern for him, outweighs his own.

And as you say: "I've helped him out a few times over the last few months with some money for medications, food, and to keep his landlord at bay, but I'm almost out of any financial assistance I can give him."

Could it be, your financial aid is discouraging him from taking responsibility for himself?

just sayin'
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are funds available from the economic stimulus to provide emergency help to people facing homelessness. I hesitate to recommend any specific provider, but Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, etc. are involved in distributing the funds. Check here for more information. I don't personally know alot about the program, so I hope this is helpful.
posted by cabingirl at 2:47 PM on February 2, 2010

A transitional employment program with a clubhouse model would be great. There's one in Chicago called Thresholds.
posted by jgirl at 3:31 PM on February 2, 2010

I had a friend who has epilepsy. Her mom found a group that helped find a job for her. I did a search and found a couple groups that might be worth trying.



It took a couple years for her disability to go through so that's not a quick fix. She also had problems with alcoholism so she ended up not working and using her check to go drinking. I think she's still living with family but we aren't in contact anymore. I know this isn't the most relevant to your situation but I'm with some of the other posters in that you can't make someone change their life. It's up to that person.

The quickest and most stable situation seems to be a bus ticket to his dad's if the the dad is willing to have him stay. You sound very kind and thoughtful but be careful about being sucked into a situation where you're responsible for someone else's life. Make sure you're offering help to someone who wants a hand up and not a hand out.
posted by stray thoughts at 3:47 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lake County Workforce Development

College of Lake County's W.I.A. Programs. From the link: The federal Workforce Investment Act (W.I.A.) offers a comprehensive range of workforce development activities through statewide and local organizations. CLC offers programs that are certified to provide education and training to adults and dislocated workers who have been awarded vouchers under W.I.A., these may include: ... Persons with Disabilities
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:36 PM on February 2, 2010

You might want to stop mentioning the commercial drivers license. It's possible that his epilepsy prevents him from getting any drivers license, if he has seizures often enough.

I'd like to second mareli's suggestion for Section 8 housing, food stamps, and so on. If it's hard for him to find a job now, it will be near-impossible when he has no address to put on an application, he's sleeping rough, possibly has no phone, possibly has no access to regular showers, and has to spend some time every day figuring out how to get food to eat.
posted by Houstonian at 6:29 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Without a documented mental health history he is unlikely to qualify for SSI on the basis of a mental health disability claim. If he wants SSI, and I'm not sure he sounds like a good candidate, he will need to apply for Medicaid then see a psychiatrist for a psychiatric evaluation at the very least. Then there are only certain diagnoses that will qualify him for benefits, so if he isn't determined to have one of those disorders he won't receive benefits.

Chicago has a really neat way of providing homeless services. Rather than the kind of fractious service structure you see in most cities where providers of different types of services all compete for the same referrals and all oppose each other on the basis of political allegiances Chicago has a cooperative called the Chicago Alliance that has brought together housing first, continuum of care, shelter providers, etc. in a way where each group can determine which clients are might be better for certain programs and clients then access services that are targeted to their needs. At least, that's how it was explained to me by Nancy Radner, their executive director, how it works in actuality I don't know because I've never practiced social work in Chicago.

Anyway, your friend should contact them.
posted by The Straightener at 7:41 PM on February 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

"Does he even want to work? For real? ... Could it be, your financial aid is discouraging him from taking responsibility for himself?"

This is some immense silliness. The amount of stress this kind of situation puts a person under is far greater than the benefits of sponging occasional rent money off a friend. Anyone who's ever been unemployed with no savings, no support network, and bills to pay can attest to this.
posted by soviet sleepover at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I interpreted the line about metal illness as something your friend's brother is dealing with, not your friend. If I'm misreading this and some of the previous posters are correct in that you friend has a mental illness, I think you have to start there.

Also, give churches in your area a call. I think people are reluctant to do that because they think any help is contingent on listening to a self-righteous lecture and a promise to show up at church every weekend. I'll speak for Catholic assistance programs, because that's where I've done some work. They don't ask for proof of rosary ownership, and my guess is your friend will find a lot of compassion, not an indictment.

This economy is sucks for people with lots of experience and qualifications. Don't get hung up on his unique circumstances. Instead, remind him that what he is facing unfortunately is very common. And kudos to you for your effort. He's fortunate to have you as a friend.
posted by tenaciousd at 10:02 PM on February 2, 2010

Does he even want to work?

This is some immense silliness.

I suppose for a reasonably level-headed, unproblematic person, the choice of work and its benefits, vs. not working and its consequences, is a no-brainer. I agree, it's silly to ask such a question of you or I.

On the other hand there are thousands of people who don't fit into the category of level-headed or unproblematic. Like the person the OP is asking about.

The OP states, "I believe he wants to work". OK, but if I say "I believe it's raining outside" that's different than saying "it's raining outside, I know because I was out there and now I'm dripping wet".

What I ask is, whether the OP is making excuses for this guy's behavior and is at risk of enabling him: "he lost a job - oh, but it's not entirely his fault. He won't use free library internet - oh, but his discomfort is probably understandable. Oh, and I've been giving him money for many months."

And I do get the impression the questioner is more concerned about the predicament of this guy, than this guy is himself.

In my past activities, I've encountered a few people who fit into the category of down-and-out. While I don't wish to paint with a broad brush, I've seen many examples of people who want a handout - but not a helping hand...
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:15 AM on February 3, 2010

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