I've got a friend in a bad situation. How can she get out?
May 10, 2011 10:22 AM   Subscribe

A good friend of mine - I'll refer to her as E - is living in a negative situation that she's ready to get out of. Short version: she's living with and basically looking after a toxic, alcoholic parent. E's done all she can, and it's time to leave. But there are some issues holding her back. How can she address these? Details below.

Here are the basic facts:

* E has around $1000 in savings right now, and pay from her two jobs isn't much.
* Currently lives in a small town in Pennyslvania
* Primary job experience is in retail
* She has access to a car right now but will need her own when she moves.
* She's ready to move just about anywhere with job opportunities and isn't too picky about the work right now
* She has friends who are willing to let her stay with them while she gets back on her feet, but...
* She has two cats + a small dog, and none of us can take them in, too, unfortunately. She doesn't know of anyone who can right now.
* She's looking into getting counseling for herself, too. This has obviously been an emotionally-draining experience for her.

The most pressing problem at the moment is the pets, though she could use any advice in general. What are E's options?
posted by katillathehun to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Congrats to your friend, first of all, for feeling the empowerment to recognize that she has to leave.

While I can't address each item piece by piece, I just want to note this: Make sure that is a list of logistical issues and not simply a list of excuses to not take any action.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:27 AM on May 10, 2011

She's not likely to find a good place to stay with those animals, not at her income level.

I think that if you are in a hardscrabble situation like this and you have to choose between yourself and your pets, you have to choose yourself. Especially if she is already in an unstable home situation that could fold in on itself at any time -- what would she do if that happened? The pets are living on borrowed time, and so is your friend unless she takes these challenges seriously.

There are other people who can give the pets a good home. She will have to reach out through other channels besides her friends to find them.
posted by hermitosis at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

To follow up on what TinWhistle said (and, on preview) to ditto Hermitosis), if re-homing the pets through the Humane Society or another animal care facility is the only option, she shouldn't feel bad about it. Easier said than done, I know, but she can't let caring for animals stand in the way of caring for herself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:33 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think she's going to have to give up the pets. I hate to say it, but that is incredibly hard to get around, and if she can get free housing (given the rest of her broke-ass situation), that has to be a priority.

Where do her friends live? I'm hoping it's a big city that has at least some good public transport to help get around the car issue.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:42 AM on May 10, 2011

IF she can avoid a stay of crashing-with-friends, she may not necessarily have to give up the pets. I recently was in the market for cheap housing in a big city (Dallas), and many if not most of the ads I saw allowed pets, many without a pet deposit.

Caveat: You're more likely to find this happy scenario if you are dealing with "some guy/woman renting a house she owns" which has its own risks (and rewards), that you can negotiate with, rather than a rental company . Check craigslist and the classified of the alt-weeklies.

If she is amenable to living in a big city, then she might be better off forsaking her own car rather than the pets (unless there is a specific circumstance you didn't mention). Millions of us make do with public transportation just fine.
posted by mreleganza at 10:50 AM on May 10, 2011

Unless she's in physical danger, she need to save up some more money, so that she can leave without being homeless.
posted by orthogonality at 11:06 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, her friends (including me) live in big cities, and she knows public transportation is an option, at least until she can save up for a car. But a car is ultimately a goal.

The problem with staying at home until she can save up more money is that the parent in this equation won't get a job and is eating up E's income. There are few job opportunities where E lives, so she's not making very much money, even with the two jobs. She basically needs to go somewhere where there are better chances - hopefully where she has a better support network, too.
posted by katillathehun at 11:39 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd focus on getting counseling first. Counselors and therapists often have sound practical advice (and contacts) that can help a great deal with the other stuff on that list.

I wish I had good advice about the pet situation, but all I can really add is that in a similar situation, leaving everything else behind, my pets were the only support and love I really felt I could count on, and I don't know if I would have been able to make it without them. Please try to be understanding if she just can't give them up.
posted by Jaie at 11:40 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

She might want to check Craigslist or her extended network to see if there's someone who can foster her pets for a few months. Also, some shelters and charities can assist with short-term homes for pets while their owners deal with foreclosure or other housing turmoil.
posted by stefanie at 12:10 PM on May 10, 2011

The action plan should be pretty simple even if it is emotionally daunting.
1. Pick the city and friend to crash in (don't tell parent). If possible, start applying for jobs.
2. Locate local Humane Society or local animal care center. If it is a municipal animal care center, check to make sure it is a no-kill shelter. More and more are moving this direction. Know their business hours!
2. Pick the moving date (don't tell parent). Make this date one that allows you to drop off the animals.
3. If possible, discreetly pack up and be prepared to take the bare minimum (ie just clothes and personal effects).
4. Load up belongings and pets. See if this can be done when toxic parent is out of the house. If not, see if a friend will help. Make this quick. Don't talk. Just get your stuff and go. If the car belongs to parent, ask friend to take animal and belongings so the car can be left behind.
5. Take the pets to the Humane Society or local animal care center. Make the drop off as quick as possible. Tell them you're leaving a toxic situation and get out at quickly as possible. This is going to be hard, but the crying can be done later.
6. After surrendering the animals, go to crash with willing friend in large city. The next day, start applying for jobs in the area.
7. No matter how much this sucks, get up each day and look for a job, look for resources and support.
posted by onhazier at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Low-money situations are so stressful that it's sadly ironic that a lack of funds also makes it harder to get mental health care. But not impossible -- there is a nonprofit called Needymeds whose mission is to direct people to low- or no-cost sources of medication and health care.

The site has a searchable database of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics nationwide, and many of these clinics offer mental health services. (The database includes info on each clinic's hours, location, cost, and services.)

Sending thoughts and blessings to your friend during this journey.
posted by virago at 1:26 PM on May 10, 2011

If the dog is a purebred, a rescue organization for that breed can take it.

Has she looked into Al-anon?
posted by brujita at 1:57 PM on May 10, 2011

Yes, her friends (including me) live in big cities, and she knows public transportation is an option, at least until she can save up for a car. But a car is ultimately a goal.

More clarification on this: if she's not living somewhere where the ONLY way to get around whatsoever is a car, then a car should be put a lot lower down on her priority list of things to worry about here. If she wants to move where there is no public transport to get her anywhere, then she really can't do any move without a car first (believe me, I know this one firsthand). But if it's a move to a city, she can at least job hunt at places accessible to public transport, and worry about getting a car later.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:43 AM on May 11, 2011

This may be terrible advice but I'll throw it out there. Reddit has a large community and a soft spot for pets in a bind. Asking them for volunteers to foster pets might be reasonable, assuming she's in a city with a large internet-active population. I'm not sure which subgroup would be right to ask though. There are obviously huge risks doing this but she's in a bind and the pets' futures are not nearly as important as her own. Putting them in random foster homes is probably better than leaving them as hostages with the parent.

The trick in any pet foster situation is making sure the alcoholic parent doesn't know who is doing the fostering. You don't want him/her to try to make life difficult for E by making life difficult for the foster hosts.
posted by chairface at 7:56 AM on May 12, 2011

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