Happy New Year: You're Homeless!
December 28, 2010 12:13 PM   Subscribe

A relative is set to become homeless in few days. I don't know how to help, if I even can, or whether I should. Help me help him help himself.

I have a relative who has been hit rather hard by the downturn in the economy. The industry he's in has suffered, which means that he was laid off over a year ago and had to live off of his savings. And credit card debt. Some combination thereof. A few months ago, he received a job offer in another state. He scrapped up his last few $$ and moved out there for the gig. He dumped everything he had left into an apartment, started working, and then...got laid off again.

He is in another state. He cannot pay rent next month, so he has to leave his apartment before then. He knows very few people, as he just moved out there. He doesn't have any good connections or resources. So he is going to be homeless.

I am freaking out. I want to help him. I have no idea how. I don't even know if I can: I live on a fixed stipend. This summer I faced both temporary unemployment and a health crisis, which obliterated my savings and put me in some debt, which I have only recently managed to climb out of. A loan on my part would be very difficult.

But he needs help.* How can I help him from afar? What resources can I find for him? Having never been in a similar situation, I don't even know where to begin looking for him, and am wondering if you have any ideas.

* Some family members would note that some of his situation has probably been exacerbated by how he's handled his finances in the past. Probably true, though it's also true that his industry did tank. While I intellectually understand these family members and their desire to take a tough-love approach to the situation, I also know that he is literally going to be living on the street. A crisis that probably demands some help of some sort at some point in the immediate future.
posted by vivid postcard to Human Relations (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He cannot pay rent next month, so he has to leave his apartment before then.

From what I understand, he could potentially stay there until he is actually evicted, and eviction proceedings can take a while. Whether this is advisable is another story.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:16 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

there will be a lot of esoteric advice, but if you told us the city he was in, we could also give specific "help him tomorrow" sort of advice. the differences between resources in say arkansas and california are huge...
posted by nadawi at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2010

yeah the tough-love thing won't help if he's literally homeless. dude's gonna need a mailbox, a phone, a way to shower if he's ever gonna get back on his feet. I agree with nadawi it'd be helpful to know what city he's in
posted by the mad poster! at 12:19 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: He is in Merced, California
posted by vivid postcard at 12:20 PM on December 28, 2010

Agreed with nadawi. There is a ton of resources available to near-homeless in some cities, but not others. Also, what is his profession? Certain work characteristics could be applied in broad fields, with minor resume edits. Is he in good health? Is he keeping his options open (part-time employment in restaurants, etc.) or is he looking for a very specific sort of work?

You are also very vague in your * note. Is he generally impulsive? Has he had a problem maintaining a job in the past? All of these questions could assist in finding him proper help.
posted by mooselini at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2010

Seconding needs more cowbell - Some might consider it unethical, but he does have the option of staying in the apartment until evicted. If that makes you (or him) uncomfortable, you can think of it as delaying paying rent until he is employed again. I'm assuming he has been looking for work?

Here is the info for homeless services in Merced

Here is a mission located in Merced that runs a shelter.

Here is another link to local services in Merced.

I literally just Googled Merced California homeless and this stuff came up pretty quickly. I would give him this information, or make some calls yourself if you are up for it.

Good luck, and I hope he lands on his feet soon.
posted by lvanshima at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

He cannot pay rent next month, so he has to leave his apartment before then.

Another one here to say that he should be prepared to move, but should stay as long as possible before going. He should have at least a month breathing room before they kick him out in earnest. He should also check to see if there are any organizations who will help with rent money. He can start here: Merced County Community Action Agency.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:36 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about the extended unemployment benefits congress just approved? Is he eligible for that? I think the maximum period in Cali is 99 weeks. If he's eligible that might be enough to pay rent somewhere.
posted by bananafish at 12:58 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: To answer some of the questions:

His job is in manufacturing, but I am not familiar with that whole scene, so I can't quite say exactly what he works on, aside from a general description that he maintains and repairs heavy industrial machinery. While he doesn't have any higher degrees, he does have some technical certification that makes him somewhat competitive in his field (related to the types of equipment he is qualified to work with). He is healthy and fit and can lift heavy things.

He has been looking for jobs in his field, though he says that this entire time he has also been looking at everything, anything, in order to get at least some funds flowing in. Thus, he says he has been applying for a wide variety of jobs, including restaurant work, cashiering at hardware stores, trying for temping gigs, etcetera. This is where some of the family contention starts figuring in: they assume that he has only been looking in his field and not at others (for issues of pride or planning), while he says that everything he has applied for has rejected him for being overqualified. I am sure that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

And, yes - there are some issues about his impulsivity with money (example: while unemployed, he bought some expensive electronics that related not to work, but to fun). His work history is somewhat scattered; while he is a dedicated and hard worker, he did make some decisions in the past to do things like suddenly giving up a sweet gig in order to move with a new girlfriend across country, or not taking advantage of education/training opportunities that could have been beneficial for his future career for one reason or another. He's been doing less of that in recent years, but the general familial vibe is concerned that he doesn't focus enough on long-term goals. Which may be true, but that might be something for another question later.

Some info, as it stands:

1. He is in manufacturing, doesn't hold a college degree, has some previous experience in the landscaping and food service industries.

2. He is in good health and can work some tough gigs - he's done so in the past, in fact.

3. He still has his phone (with internet capabilities) and his car.

4. I live in a one-bedroom apartment, but if he needed to crash on my futon at this point, he could do that. But I am in a totally different state. And he just moved out there; I don't know if he wants to turn around and move back after all this.

5. I think he said he doesn't qualify for unemployment because he only worked at this new company for a few months. But I can run this past him again.

6. He has already talked to the landlords. He said they want him out by tomorrow. I don't really know what the legal situation is there, but he seems resigned to leave in the hopes of getting a good reference for housing in the future.

I'll be babysitting this thread a bit, so if you have more questions, I can answer them...
posted by vivid postcard at 1:04 PM on December 28, 2010

I hate to say this but if he's going to be unable to pay his rent, he shouldn't try. IE he should conserve what cash and credit he has, and allow eviction proceedings to go ahead. That will give him at least 30 days of housing where he is now, and in situations like this, time is the second most important thing after money.

Can he collect unemployment in CA? Is there a food bank in his county?

Can he stay with you? Do you or he have enough credit to get him from where he is now to where you are or to another friend or family member who can put him up?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:20 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

When a relative of mine recently had to go homeless, I offered to pay for the storage facility to house her furniture. Many storage facilities will give you really good deals on the first few months of storage. It was the best I could do on my limited budget, but I know it has been really helpful.
posted by msali at 1:26 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

He scrapped up his last few $$ and moved out there for the gig. He dumped everything he had left into an apartment, started working, and then...got laid off again.

Is he making payments on that car? I would not advise anyone facing homelessness to get rid of their car, but is it possible for him to sell a car he's making payments on and use a few hundred dollars of that to buy a cheaper car? Or, alternately, can he use that car to get back to a place where he has a better support system?

He should stay put until he is legally evicted. A quick check of Merced Craigslist shows a decent amount of subsidized housing (I suspect there is a wait list) that is very reasonably priced. As said above, He needs to go to city hall and apply for whatever benefits he's eligible for, if he hasn't already.
posted by anastasiav at 1:27 PM on December 28, 2010

Response by poster: As to unemployment: he maxed out his benefits (+ the extension) in my state. Supposedly, he doesn't get more benefits now that he is another state. I am unsure of the accuracy of this statement.
posted by vivid postcard at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2010

Unemployment is not the only benefit out there.

He needs to look into Housing Assistance, SNAP, and General Financial Assistance.
posted by anastasiav at 1:45 PM on December 28, 2010

Merced County Community Action Agency has a Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program that might be able to help. The whole intent of the program is to help folks who are in your relative's situation. They may be out of money, but there is a phone number on the website that he should call.
posted by qldaddy at 1:46 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds very much like you do not have the full story.

Without either the full story or a boatload of cash to loan your relative, there is little practical help you are capable of giving under the circumstances.

I think it's awesome you are trying, though.
posted by jbenben at 1:48 PM on December 28, 2010

Upon preview, looks like anastasiav and qldaddy came up with some good resources!

OP, just don't want you spinning your wheels with worry or blaming yourself.

Carry on!
posted by jbenben at 1:51 PM on December 28, 2010

The charity Modest Needs may be able to help him.
posted by with the singing green stars as our guide at 1:57 PM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

He may be able to get unemployment:

Claimant Benefits
The amount for benefits available is based on the
claimant's earnings in the base period. To qualify for
benefits in California, a claimant must have (1) earned at
least $1,300 in the highest quarter of the base period, or
(2) have earned at least $900 in the highest quarter and
earned total base period earnings of at least 1.25 times
the high quarter earnings. For example, if the claimant
has $900 earnings in the highest quarter, he/she is also
required to have earned a total of $1,125 in the base
period ($900 x 1.25 = $1,125).
posted by Linnee at 2:42 PM on December 28, 2010

Another way you might be able to help is to block-and-tackle any toxic crap that may be aimed at your relative from other relatives. With his current difficulties, having the relatives dump high moral dudgeon on him won't be helpful in the least.

You mention that they disapprove of what they understand of his behavior in the past. Hindsight is 20-20 with respect to so-called opportunities in the workplace, and picking up sticks to move elsewhere with a loved one is hardly irresponsible; that fact that I -- or your relatives -- might not do it is irrelevant. Dropping cash on expensive electronics wasn't the smartest thing to do, but again, if the person's experience with finding work in the past was "middle class" in the sense work historically has always been readily available, one act of questionable judgment is not damning. In any even, given the current circumstances, these things are somewhat beside the point.

So what's my point? There is probably more to your relatives attitudes toward the individual in question than meets the eye, and much of that may stem from pent-up resentments, envy, jealousies, or what-have-you with a little bit of schadenfreude thrown in for good measure. Someone dealing with a crisis of this magnitude will not be helped by having "family" turn its back on him.
posted by cool breeze at 2:46 PM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Out of almost 50 counties in California, Merced has the third highest unemployment rate (as of September). Its rate is almost double the national average (17% vs 9.5%). Tell him if he can find a job in Sacramento or the Bay Area, you will help him with a new security deposit.
posted by slidell at 3:00 PM on December 28, 2010

vivid postcard: 6. He has already talked to the landlords. He said they want him out by tomorrow.

That's nice. Unfortunately what they want and what is legal is not the same thing. Your relative should tell them that if they want him out, they should start eviction proceedings tomorrow. If he does anything else, he is essentially making himself homeless when he can actually put that off and buy more time.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:19 PM on December 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

When I was in a similar position, my cousin offered me a futon at his place, which was two time zones away. It's a standing offer if I ever need it. Even if your relative isn't keen on moving back to your state, he might have to bite the bullet and do it. I would have done so had my circumstances not taken a turn for the better. I think you should make him that offer.

What state do you live in? He might be able to get food stamps and bill assistance there as well, and contribute to the household that way, as you are on a fixed income.

Also, I agree with cool breeze that the judgmentalism of other relatives is a pretty sucky thing to throw at someone disenfranchised by the current economy. It doesn't sound like your relative is any more profligate than the average person, and it's not like he had a crystal ball that told him he'd be laid off again. So any emotional support you can give him, I'm sure he'd appreciate.

You sound like a very caring person, and I think it's great that you're willing to help him.
posted by xenophile at 3:22 PM on December 28, 2010

I agree with xenophile. Just having the offer of your futon for some stated period of time (3 months? 6?) will be support for him, even if he never takes you up on it, especially if he's getting sanctimony from his relatives.

(I bet there's some "just world fallacy" going on there. Nothing he's done sounds worth family disapprobation, and if they never in their lives took similiar risks, then, imo, they're boring drudges.)

The unemployment in sections of California is hard to imagine. I live here and I'm completely shocked at the people who aren't able to find work. Even temp agencies are sending form letters out to completely qualified people who have sent them resumes, telling them they aren't placing anyone so don't bother.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:32 PM on December 28, 2010

And before you assume the San Francisco Bay Area has any jobs, check out craigslist. It's a desert even here.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:34 PM on December 28, 2010

Lots of good stuff already mentioned in this thread. I was thinking that since he's good with his hands, maybe he could get a job as a live-in handyman or something. Have him contact a local church and ask if they know of any (elderly) people who have a spare room and need repairs done.
posted by lovelygirl at 4:14 PM on December 28, 2010

small ruminant's point about the Bay Area is good, and I don't mean to imply that there is no work in Merced that he might find. You never know what will work in this economy. Heck, Kern County's oil fields might be a good bet for someone with his machine repair skills. Maybe gas money to go on far-flung interviews would be a way for a little extra cash to go a long way.
posted by slidell at 6:51 PM on December 28, 2010

he did make some decisions in the past to do things like suddenly giving up a sweet gig in order to move with a new girlfriend across country, or not taking advantage of education/training opportunities that could have been beneficial for his future career for one reason or another.

Nth-ing that's perfectly normal, hindsight is 20/20, etc. "Tough love" should really be reserved for situations like addiction, and it's a shame the rest of the family seem to be acting so harshly.

Considering your own situation, it's probably best if you pass on some of the information given here, offer that futon/floor space if he needs, and just be a sympathetic sounding board for what must be a tough time for him. Don't get yourself into deep debt doo-doo, from the sound of it, you can't afford it.
posted by Cuppatea at 5:14 AM on December 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

A few suggestions: He should find out where the local labor pools are and go to all of them at 4-5am every day. They get jobs that come in daily and and will pay out daily. If he has some of his own tools and or vehicle that can help him more. Labor pools don't pay out much but it's better than zero. If he needs to know how to find our where labor pools are, go up to any construction worker and ask, they will know.

Also he should apply ASAP for food stamps. Usually you will get the EBT card in around a week and a half here in Florida.
posted by heatherly at 6:17 AM on December 29, 2010

I used to go to school in Merced. It's a rough town. I wouldn't want to be homeless there.

Can you afford a plane ticket to fly him back to your home state? Let him stay with you for a while?
posted by Avenger at 4:01 PM on December 29, 2010

I have to say the 'get to your state somehow and use your futon' solution does seem to be the best to me
posted by the mad poster! at 2:43 PM on January 2, 2011

Response by poster: I just want to hop in and say thank you to everyone who has responded. At this point, I don't know if others have suggestions, but I am going to leave the thread open in case they do.

He is out of the apartment, so things are not good. However, I have forwarded to him all the info and suggestions in this thread, and have offered the futon if he drives back here.

But mainly: thanks to your words, I was able to go back to my family during the holiday and point out that "tough love" looks like abandonment to someone who is out on the street. And that we need to pull some resources together to get him out of this situation and into a better one before anyone can entertain any notions of "teaching him to help himself" and what have you. This actually mobilized efforts on their end. So we'll see.

As it stands: he is currently camping and freaked out, but now has people helping him work on leads or finding him a place to stay. If you have any more thoughts, shout them out. I am in constant contact with him and can thus forward any ideas, information, or tips out to him quickly.
posted by vivid postcard at 9:04 PM on January 2, 2011

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