I'm about to become homeless in Los Angeles. Please help me.
January 24, 2012 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I'm 24, female, college-educated, and I'm about to become homeless in Los Angeles. Please hope me. Anonymous because I'm so humiliated.

I moved to the Los Angeles area in September to live with a friend. It turns out that this friend has serious mental health issues that I did not know about before moving in with him. He's threatened to kick me out pretty much every other week since I arrived for various perceived infractions, but at this point, it appears that I need to leave imminently, for his sake and for mine. It's not fair to either of us to deal with this kind of stress, and to be perfectly honest, I don't think I can handle it very much longer. It is absolutely exhausting, both mentally and emotionally, to cope with his angry outbursts. I have been leaving the house all day every day in an attempt to give him some space, but he waits for me to get home and then launches into a diatribe. The strange part is that sometimes he's incredibly solicitous and invites me to hang out in the living room or watch TV with him, as we used to do when we were friends. This unpredictability has been the worst part, probably because it is so very like my (dysfunctional) family of origin.

I'm originally from the Midwest, but I have nowhere to go there, either. My mother is an alcoholic and drug addict who was homeless herself until she moved in with her enabler boyfriend this fall. Like most addicts, she seems to be surrounded by an enormous vortex of drama, which I know I'd be sucked into as soon as I moved back. I have a sister in my hometown as well, but she lives with a boyfriend and they're really living paycheck-to-paycheck themselves. My dad lives out of the country. We haven't spoken very much over the past 12 years or so, but we've been emailing a bit recently. I don't think he knows just how desperate my situation is, and I don't believe he's able to help me.

My family history is full of instability, which I think is why the stress of this situation is getting to me so much. When my parents divorced, my mother began to drink heavily and use drugs, my father disappeared, we lost our house, our car, and almost everything we owned, I had zero adult supervision or guidance, and basically things were very difficult for a long time. All of this ridiculous behavior from my friend is bringing back memories of my mother at her very worst, which is unpleasant.

I wasn't planning to stay in Los Angeles permanently, but the longer I stayed here, the more convinced I became that my hometown is a pretty toxic environment for me. I want to build a real adult life for myself, and I don't see that it's possible there. Furthermore, I don't have a job anywhere to live there, either, and if I'm going to be homeless, I'd rather do it in Los Angeles, where I won't freeze to death.

I have made several pretty grave miscalculations which have put me in this position, and I acknowledge that I am at fault. First, I am six credits short of a BA - my mother ended up hospitalized for life-threatening complications of alcoholism during the second semester of my senior year, and the ensuing turmoil made it impossible for me to concentrate on my studies. I know this was a huge mistake. I've called the university and have a plan for finishing the degree, but obviously have more pressing concerns at this time. Second, since I did not plan to stay here in southern California permanently, I didn't start looking for work until November. Of course, nobody looks at resumes over the holidays, so things are just starting to pick up now. I've had one interview and have at least 40 other applications in, so I really feel that it's only a matter of time before something works out.

So, basically, I just need somewhere to stay for a few more weeks before I find a job. I'm thinking about finding a tent and camping in the Angeles National Forest. I'm not very big or imposing, so I'm very reluctant to sleep in a park or anything like that. I do not own a car. If I knew someone with a backyard or a couch, I'd sleep there, but I don't know anyone here except for my "friend." I am allowed to stay in the house until January 31.

I'm sorry this is so long, but obviously I'm experiencing a lot of anxiety about this situation. What should I do? How can I manage this crippling anxiety while I'm trying to figure things out? Right now, I can't sleep or eat (my typical response to stress, unfortunately).

Any advice at all is welcomed. If you'd like to email me, I can be reached at lahomelessthrowaway@gmail.com

Thank you so much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (54 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this - how stressful! I don't have any suggestions for more official help - perhaps someone more local would have ideas - but when I was in a situation where I needed a short term place to stay, I watched someone's cats while they were on vacation and stayed in their apartment for free. Perhaps you can check Craigslist for housesitting gigs? You might also want to look at Couchsurfing in the LA area and see what the community is like - maybe you can couch hop for a few days at a time.

Best of luck!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 7:46 AM on January 24, 2012

First off, I am so, so sorry to hear about your situation. You're a very strong person to deal with what you've gone through and still be trying!

Secondly, have you tried the Couchsurfing website? You may be able to find different people to host you for a week or two until you're back on your feet. There are also a lot of Mefites there that may be able to help.

Do you have any money saved up already? You might be able to find a room for a month on Craigslist.

Also, and I'm not too sure on this so maybe another mefite can chime in, but it might not be legal for him to just kick you out if you've been living there since September. I'm not sure how that works in Los Angeles, but you might have more time to find a place than you think.
posted by biochemist at 7:47 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't normally suggest this without a career plan and safety net, but have you looked into student loans and student grants/assistance? If you are able to borrow money to finish your degree, including basic living expenses, you can kill two birds with one deferred-payment stone. Finish your degree and have a room to live while you look for work and find your feet. State residence stuff will probably apply though.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

What situation did you move out of exactly? Living with your mother? I think you should really, really re-think the idea of living outdoors, in any State. My opinion is you should strongly consider turning to your family, despite how fucked up they are - sister, mother, or father. Camping/living outside is a *terrible* idea. Also, you don't have a job and you don't know that you're going to get one, you're just presuming so. If that doesn't pan out you will be *screwed*. It honestly doesn't sound like you're appreciating the gravity of being homeless. If you're family aren't violent, I would get the hell out of L.A. pronto.
posted by facetious at 7:49 AM on January 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

While you're looking for a job, have you considered working for a temp agency? That would be a way to make a little money and meet some more people, which would give you some more options in terms of housing.
posted by colfax at 7:51 AM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

In a city the size of LA, I'd be surprised if there weren't several homeless shelters around.

It's not pretty, it's not comfortable, and it's not a happy place, but at least you'd be off the street, and without a car, still in the city, which would be important for finding a job and getting to work.
In any case, it's a far cry better than being homeless!

It may take some time, but if you work hard and have some luck you should eventually get back on your feet. It doesn't address your property issues, but neither does camping in the forest.

I hope you find some better help, or a solution soon!
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 7:51 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into waiting tables? The good thing about that is that you can start earning tips (cash) pretty quickly. And seconding harlequin... try to get student loans to finish your degree plus living expenses.
posted by murrey at 7:53 AM on January 24, 2012

Where is the college you attended? Can you go back there to get your 6 credits? Please do not go camp in a public place.

It sounds like the guy you're staying with is emotionally abusive. Have you considered talking to a counselor at a domestic abuse service about this? They might be able to help.

If you tell us, through the mod, what part of LA you're in local mefites might be able to provide more concrete suggestions.
posted by mareli at 7:56 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're leaving an abusive situation with your roommate, so a women's shelter would be totally appropriate.

Lots of people end up in LA, so you may have friends-of-friends or friends-of-friends-of-friends there. Even tenuous links in your social network may pan out. Classmates from high school or college? Your embarrassment is not fair to yourself and it will close doors for you (for instance, MeFis are known to be very resourceful and you might miss an opportunity by being anonymous here.) I have a friend who was in your position and she ended up staying with a stable, boring couple that were 2 degrees of separation apart from her social network.

A women's shelter would be some good stability because there's a real danger of settling for another sketchy or dangerous situation in your haste.

I hope everything works out. We all need a little help at one time or another. Please don't overlook any helping hands out of embarrassment.
posted by Skwirl at 7:57 AM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Forget the camping. Just get out. Stabilize a bit, then think about stuff like college, job etc etc etc. Trying to make a situation like this better, even for a short time, will very likely not end well.

Get the advice from a local women's shelter.

Here are some LA Women's shelters.

Beyond Shelter - (213) 252-0772
For Women Only, Inc. - (213) 359-0839
Lamp Inc - (213) 488-9559
Shelter First, Inc. - (213) 622-4972
Weingart Center Association - (213) 627-5302
Acme Homeless Shelter - (213)555-1212
My Sisters Keeper - (323) 224-0204
Women S Network For Cancer Prevention - (323) 299-8570
National Council Of Jewish Women Incorporated - (323) 651-2930
Faithful Service Outreach - (323) 735-7162
Good Shepherd Shelter - (323) 737-6111
Old Time Faith Inc - (323) 747-7419
Southern California Alcohol And Drug Programs, Inc. - (323) 780-7285
Relief International - (323) 932-7888
posted by lampshade at 7:59 AM on January 24, 2012 [21 favorites]

I think couchsurfing as above is a great idea, but wanted to warn you against TMI in your application or oversharing with any gracious hosts. Keep it light, sleep on a couch, continue looking for work. Los Angeles has an extremely high cost of living, so don't discount checking out couchsurfing or women's shelters in other cities. Also, please be careful about answering ads on craigslist for work in exchange for room-and-board. Many of those ads are fronts for human trafficking, and many women more educated and/or streetsmart than you have been swept up in this epidemic.
posted by juniperesque at 7:59 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't panic. You'll be okay. Some suggestions: Child care or live in nanny? After college my friend got a gig as a live in nanny. They gave her a private room and a car as part of her compensation. Put an ad on Craigslist as a house sitter/live in nanny. Maybe someone would even give you a room in exchange for housework and cooking. Waiting tables working at a restaurant = quick cash.
posted by bananafish at 8:10 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is nothing to be humiliated or ashamed about. This is a problem that you can overcome with the right resources. I know a lot of currently successful people that have had blips in their lives like this.

Where you are living is incredibly stressful but pitching a tent in a park will be way worse. You don't have a strong network where one person can help but maybe if each person helped a little it will add up to give you some breathing room. The first person I would ask would be your father, he appears to have to most resources and considering his abandonment of you when you were younger he "owes" you.

Go to the library and research what resources are available. Take some time to plan long term, not just short term. The idea up thread about returning to school with grants and loans is a good one. Some community's social services will buy your bus ticket home.

You are smart enough and resourceful enough to solve this problem with help from your community and social services.
posted by saucysault at 8:13 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry this is happening to you! Please don't be embarrassed. And, I agree, don't go live in the woods - I think it will compound the difficulty in moving on from this situation. For your own mental health, I encourage you to revisit your personal narrative. Yes, you have turmoil in your family and background, no safety net and you haven't quite finished college. Guess what? That is the story of many, many people. And those people have managed, like a phoenix, to rise from the ashes and put together a life for themselves. This is where you are. Coming to a new city for a guy where it didn't work out is the other heroic, Go West, Young Lady! tale of success and redemption. You can do this!

Don't give your roommate another penny. Investigate shelter opportunities and go visit local community colleges ASAP! It may take more than one term's worth of credits to finish your education. This is okay. The admissions and academic counseling services at LA's many very good community colleges will help you make sense of this and you may be able to apply for a diploma from your university with transfer credits. When you are talking to any of these services ask if they know where you can get help creating a budget. No matter what, you will be on a shoestring for awhile and you can't afford to squander.

Apply for any and every kind of legitimate job right now. Work your network. At a minimum, you need somewhere that is your mailbox. Without unloading your whole history on people (except social services) you can confide that your current guy (roommate, boyfriend, cousin, whatever) is abusing you and you need to get away. But, you got to keep your head up and your feet moving.

Eat as healthy as you can everyday. Drink lots of water. Avoid drugs and alcohol. And don't stop until things sort out. You are not the first to go through this. Not the first by far! You are strong. You can do this! It will work out. Believe in yourself. Once things get sorted out you can give yourself permission to be down and hard on yourself but not until then. Get busy! I believe in you!
posted by amanda at 8:18 AM on January 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

If your new to California you should also know that this is the beginning of the wet season.

Not the time for camping out.

Good luck
posted by pianomover at 8:23 AM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Ask your relatives to lend you money. They may be able to scrape it up from somewhere (or borrow from others). This is a desperate situation, so there's no shame in asking for help.

Also, do you speak Spanish, and are you willing to share a room? Typically, big cities have a network of Latino immigrants who rent out rooms really cheap. Here's one example for $250: http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv/roo/2815613250.html. (If you need help translating, memail me and I can help. )

The ad offers: "Share room with a woman. Shared room with own bathroom in North Hollywood near the swap meet. $250 per month utilities included. Deposit $125 that will be returned if you give 30 days notice."
posted by yarly at 9:01 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Survival advice for women: Own your own home (that could mean a trailer or tiny house), and work in the food industry (= free meals). [I realize you may not be able to get into even a trailer at this point but I am offering a simplified goal for you to hang onto for now. You need a goal.]

I don't think you should go back with family. If your mom is in a small home with a new boyfriend. Oh god, you moving in would be horrible for you in less than 24 hours. Then you would be stuck in a small town with no job opportunities. And these cramped over-emotional living situations are soul crushing and dangerous. I think you can make it in LA. I think there is a lot of opportunity there.

If I were in your situation I would contact local Mormon churches and ask if they can set you up in a nanny situation. This will not protect you from getting in with a crazy family but it is one of the best ways to get into a nanny position. A nanny situation with your own room and meals provided could be one of your best options. [And this is what I did when I was young in LA.]

As soon as you can you will want to get your own place. But you could suck it up and put up with the difficulties of being a nanny for several years if you have to.

Temp jobs are also good but difficult if you don't have a job.

Going back to school or getting a job as a dorm manager on campus would work.

Please do not camp! That is too dangerous. I was young on my own in LA too. I lived through it. I did not go camping alone! I got a nanny job. That's why I am still alive.
posted by cda at 9:02 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wanted to add one way to keep more money in your pocket right now: food stamps! Since you don't have any income and I am assuming you have less than 1k in cash resources, you most definitely qualify for food stamps. Specifically, you probably qualify for *emergency* food stamps - which means Social Services can issue you a card with money for buying groceries the same day. You can walk into your local Social Services office, fill out a form, meet with a case manager, and leave (probably hours later) with a card. It works like a debit card and you can use it pretty much anywhere (including at Whole Foods and other grocery stores). The amount of "money" you get varies, but most individuals I know get around $200 per month. It might be different in California but whatever it is, it'll help.

I also want to second temp agencies. When my back was against the wall financially, working for temp agencies got me through it. With less than $500 to my name, I signed up with two agencies. A day later, I was folding clothes at some sample sale for $11 an hour. I did that for two weeks until the other temp agency called and offered me an incoming-call-center job for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with overtime pay. It sucked, but I did it for a month, made a few grand, and hung in there until I found a stable job with some medical benefits. Find a few temp agencies, fill out their forms, and see what you can get offered.

I have to disagree with the previous comments suggesting that you pursue a spot at a women's shelter for abuse victims. I used to work for such an agency and the number of people requesting a space far outnumbers the available beds. Because of that, those shelters have screening tools and often can only take people who are in imminent physical danger of being killed by their abuser. I wish there were more resources to help people, but that is how the shelter I worked at prioritized cases -- and it is my understanding that it's standard practice.
posted by pinetree at 9:10 AM on January 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

P.S. Just want to make sure it's clear I'm referring to women's shelters for abuse victims - not homeless shelters in general or homeless shelters for women. Just FYI. I think it might be a good idea to pursue a homeless shelter if you need to otherwise.
posted by pinetree at 9:14 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi. You may want to read my previous question.

Not all the info will apply, as it was specific to another city.
But: don't be humiliated. This is happening to a lot of people because of the economy.

But please be proactive. My relative wasn't in certain aspects, which was understandable in many respects, but which snowballed into an unfortunate situation for him. (He did, however, get off the streets, thank god, but after a not very fun experience)
posted by vivid postcard at 9:24 AM on January 24, 2012

This is tough, but you'll make it! I'll second amanda's advice - keeping your body as healthy as you can will definitely help.

Something to keep in mind while you cope with this situation is the importance of actually coping with it. Based on my own current, seven or eight months' experience, I'd recommend that you devote at least some amount of energy to relieving this stress however you can. That means recognizing when the overall situation is starting to dominate you and throttling back for a little bit. Spend five or ten minutes with your eyes shut, taking deep breaths - all that stuff that you hear people talk about. They're talking about it because it works.

I'm not one for Xanax or even herbal remedies or any of that, usually, but a sage friend of mine turned me on to Theanine Serene with Relora, which, to my understanding, is a bunch of Calming Herbs And Stuff. They're in pill form, and I picked up a bottle of it for ten bucks in the grocery store's natural food / various natural supplements aisle three days ago. At this point, I do feel like it might be helping, but it's only been a few days yet. You take one or two in the AM, my friend's experience has been that it helps you take that step back when you need to get your ducks in a row. It's not supposed to be a cure all, but at a certain point even the littlest things can be a tremendous help.

This is just a hiccup, I promise - You'll come out the other end stronger than you already are!
posted by Chutzler at 9:29 AM on January 24, 2012

The Angeles National Forest is not a safe place to do this.
It is notorious as a dumping ground for murder victims.
And beyond that, it's routinely dangerous for hikers and other tourists.
It's vast, unpopulated, and tricky terrain.

People die there.

Don't do this.
posted by jann at 9:34 AM on January 24, 2012 [13 favorites]

In a similar situation to yours, I went for quick-cash turn-around jobs, like coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries, such as on Melrose Place. (Back then, at least, you could walk in and get hired.) There are other options but they are not safe or advisable.

Also there is emergency assistance and emergency foodstamps, which you should ABSOLUTELY make use of.

In addition to the womens' resources above, which you should ABSOLUTELY look into, there is, of course, Occupy Los Angeles. Perhaps going there to meet the women would not be the worst thing. Your mileage may vary.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:46 AM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ring around some homeless shelters and talk to people there they will be able to offer advise on what aid you qualify for if not shelter. Go sign up for food stamps. Sign up with temp agencies. Get a PO box so your mail has somewhere to go so you don't miss out on important paperwork.

See if you can qualify for student loans or some sort of scholarships through your college so you can get the rest of your credits.
posted by wwax at 9:50 AM on January 24, 2012

Los Angeles is a pretty good place to need a short-term job in a hurry even though you're overeducated or overqualified. Don't wait for a job you don't have yet, you need the money now.

Unfortunately, state parks are de facto homeless shelters for people who can't or won't get along in a shelter. These are often very volatile people and it's not safe without some numbers for safety, and a means of leaving. And, yeah, welcome to winter in Southern California: wet and cold. While being in the hospital with pneumonia would technically give you a roof over your head and 3 meals a day, I think it would be a setback overall.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:57 AM on January 24, 2012

The best homeless resources in LA are all in Santa Monica. If you want a bed, you can generally get one there. Sorry I can't get more specific, but that's where you should look-- the buses over there are pretty good, too, and you won't feel as stranded as you will in the rest of LA.
posted by devymetal at 10:25 AM on January 24, 2012

Some outside-the-box thoughts, presented in no coherent order as I am still working on morning coffee:

Depending on location, you can often buy a relatively cheap round-trip Greyhound ticket; if you time it right, you can get half a night's sleep outbound and the rest inbound, for a lot less than any lodging would cost.

If you have an out-of-state ID still, you may be able to find affordable space at a hostel. (Many, especially in big cities, will not give rooms to in-state residents, for fear they'll turn into de facto homeless shelters.)

Pulling up stakes at this point and relocating to an unfamiliar smaller city is a potentially bad move on a lot of levels - you won't know the area, fewer social services, et cetera - but on the other hand, the cost of living in California is insane. If you've established residency in California, a smaller city might offer more affordable costs, and possibly more job opportunities - or it could just make things worse. I have no constructive advice to offer on this point other than, think it through very carefully.

This may have completely changed due to the current economy, but historically, an out-of-state visitor to Las Vegas could obtain a ton of perks and coupon books based on the idea that once lured into a casino, said tourist would be more likely to drop money... Though with the current economy, I would not make this assumption without checking first. But if it does still hold true, you might just be able to convert a smallish amount of money into that overnight-sleeping-bus-trip and a damn good buffet meal - which is not only marginally better nutrition than fast food meals, but also more self-empowering in terms of turning a negative situation into a positive one.

By no means sleep in a park, or any public place, unless you feel capable and confident in your ability to awaken from a deep sleep and defend yourself by pure reflex (and there are very many Big Strong Scary people who also fail this test, so no shame there.) If you do find yourself without options - become nocturnal: spend your nights awake and alert, and sleep in the daytime. This will be marginally safer than the alternative.

If you have the ability to take shelter in a vehicle, your best bet would be a commercial-style windowless cargo van that will blend in as "just another vehicle" wherever you park it; this can be done, and very safely, if and only if you are properly prepared to live out of a vehicle. Fortunately, there are a LARGE number of resources on the web by and for van-dwellers - those who do it by choice, those forced to it from necessity, and those whose situations are somewhere in the middle. If you or anyone is interested in this information, let me know and I will be happy to point you in some pertinent directions. However, do not make plans to live in a vehicle unless you are licensed to drive, and the vehicle can be kept properly registered, insured, and kept running. Living out of a derelict vehicle can and will cause you WAY more trouble than it's worth.

I know nothing about this from personal experience, but I've had friends who've kept themselves off the street by taking volunteer positions that offered little to no payment, but provided room and board. I have no real idea where to find such a thing, and obviously you would have to be VERY VERY VERY careful to pre-screen such an opportunity to make sure you're not being lured into a dangerous situation - something that is hard to do when you're desperate and grasping at straws - but maybe you or someone else can take that idea somewhere useful.

Unlike some other people, I WOULD NOT advise you to return home. Yes, you might find physical shelter, but the damage to your psyche - as well as to your confidence in your ability to escape a second time - could well be irreparable. You CAN find a way through this that doesn't require you to willingly return to a damaging situation - it will be a challenge, but you can do it, and the strength you will gain from having done it will be immeasurably valuable. No, really.

If you are going to end up on the street, and there is no way to avert it, don't panic; it does not have to be the end of the world. There are a couple of things to remember, if you're to find your way back out:

1) People, especially employers and law enforcement, will make judgements on you and your worth based on how you look and smell, so always make sure you are clean and neatly dressed. This requires locating public bathroom facilities where you can safely and inconspicuously change clothing and do some quick sponge-bathing. Make sure you keep a couple of washcloths and a small plastic bottle for this purpose - you can fill the bottle at the sink and take it with you into the stall, then rinse the washcloths on the way out. If you have long hair, cut it - you won't be able to keep it clean, whereas short hair can be given a quick wash in a sink if you time it right. If you have a beard, shave it. And it would be a really good time to tone down any personal stylings that could be considered "counter-culture" in any way, as you will want to avoid drawing notice as much as possible.

2) Any job that stands a chance of pulling you back out of the hole will require an address and a means of contact, so before your money runs out make sure you have a P.O. box and some manner of phone service. Don't get one at the Post Office; use one of the shipping stores, they have street addresses that look more like a "normal" address. Make sure it's at a location you can get to easily. Phone service can be a cheap prepaid cell (as long as your minutes don't expire!) or, if you're carrying a laptop, Google Voice or Skype (but make sure you know in advance where you can leech wi-fi inconspicuously). Make backup arrangements for how you'll retrieve messages if your phone or laptop is lost, broken or stolen.

3) Your stuff will have to be gotten rid of, or stored; your effective possessions will be whatever you can carry with you unaided and without drawing attention, i.e. a backpack. Make sure this contains at least two changes of clothes, toiletries, and as little valuable/heavy stuff as possible, and remember that there should never be a time when some portion of that backpack is not in direct contact with your skin, or where another party can open the backpack without you being aware of it. This is in fact the best way to not get robbed in almost every situation. ;)

4) Aside from your appearance, the other factor on which you will be judged is attitude. SMILE. No matter how hard it is. Don't fall into resentment, anger, depression - yes, OMG, easier said than done! but seriously, the most dangerous factor of being homeless is NOT survival itself, it's what happens to your self-image when you start thinking of yourself as helpless, worthless, useless, and everyone else as self-righteous entitled bastards. Your top priority, above all else, has to be your own sense of self-worth. Anything and everything you can do to keep yourself motivated and maintain your self-image is going to be crucial. Make yourself make that long walk to the place that might be hiring, even if you're so discouraged by the last 25 no-responses that you can barely will your feet to move. Find that smile, even if you have to manually move the muscles of your face to get 'em into position. Sheer, brute stubbornness, if nothing else. Just one more step. And then another. And then one more.

Above and beyond all else, try your best to remember this:

You are at a point in your life when it seems that your entire fate hangs in the balance, and disaster is imminent, and all hope is lost, and it is absolutely terrifying. Yes.

But you've seen this moment before, haven't you? Of course you have. We all have, in every movie and book ever written.

This is the moment that happens just before the hero concocts some daring, foolhardy, desperate plan, and wades into battle against impossible odds, and saves the world.

Life's like a movie. Write your own ending.

You have that power. You have that strength. Everything's going to be okay.

posted by mie at 10:34 AM on January 24, 2012 [37 favorites]

I was once in a similiar, if more slow-moving, scenario, and I landed great: I got a job (for minimum wage) at a hostel that included lodging. My own room, use of the kitchen, and evening work hours so I could work a better-paying job during the day. And it was actually really fun, working at the hostel, meeting fun young people from all over the world. There are tons of hostels around LA; if I were you -- er, when I was you -- I'd call all of them until I found one that was hiring.

Even if working there didn't pan out, you could stay there (with an out-of-state ID) for ~$20 a night.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 10:39 AM on January 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

I can't advise on the housing, there seems to be a lot of good answers up there.

But on the toxic shame that comes from abusive parents, well, I can advise you there. What I do is very simple. Every time I experience a shameful feeling like the ones you're confronting, I acknowledge the fact of the thought while pointing out that I don't have to accept those feelings as true. They are emotions, not reality.

40 applications is a great start.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

As mentioned, the city of Santa Monica has a rep for offering a bit more resources for homeless/battered/mentally ill, and perhaps being a bit more friendly. If you want to get there from downtown L.A., there is a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus from Union Station to Santa Monica for $2. Wish I can be more specific. Hang in there.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:49 AM on January 24, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
I posted the anonymous thread about being imminently homeless in Los Angeles. Here's some more information that will help guide people in giving advice.

1. My mother lives with her MARRIED boyfriend and his wife, in a very small town about an hour away from where I grew up. Even if they invited me to move in with them, I would like to avoid it.

2. I have very little money in savings, definitely not enough to get a room for a month. I can't even afford to stay in a hostel for a week.

3. I tried Couchsurfing and nobody replied to my messages.

4. My roommate gave me 30 days notice on January 1, so I'm pretty sure this eviction is legal. I didn't sign a lease or anything, and didn't pay rent, as the house has been in his family for a few generations and he lives her free as well. He invited me out here so that I could get out of the toxic situation back home.

5. I can't get student loans because after such a long period of unemployment, I've defaulted on all of my previous university debt.

6. I don't know any of my father's relatives, and all of my mom's relatives live below the poverty line, so I cannot ask them for money.

7. I am in Pasadena but know how to use the Metro system pretty well and obviously have no qualms about relocating.

Thank you so much for all your advice, everyone! Please keep it coming.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:57 AM on January 24, 2012

You might rethink going back to your hometown IF your sister is a mentally stable person to be around. Even if she can't provide financial support, she can provide emotional support (again, based on her stability). The cost of living is almost certainly lower, and there are probably less young people competing for jobs (I'm going off my impression of lots of young people going to LA to "make it"). There are high-turnover temp jobs in almost every city (I worked in a plastic factory for a few weeks inspecting widgets). They suck but it's better than being homeless, and it's a stop-gap until you find a better job. You already know your way around your hometown, and it's probably easier to get around without a car.

There is no shame in going home; I was in a similar situation in San Francisco (minus the crazypants roommate) and I just said "it didn't work out" when I went home. You can always go back when you're on your feet again.
posted by desjardins at 10:57 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

To pile on to everyone else advising you against camping, I would like to add that if you have no car, you will be trapped in the Angeles National Forest. It's pretty remote and you will have NO WAY to get to job interviews if you get one. (In addition to being very cold and dangerous. One of the reasons Santa Monica has so many homeless people is that it's nice and temperate.)

I would go stay with my sister until I got my feet back on the ground. You can ALWAYS come back to Los Angeles. They don't need to support you, just give you a sofa, you know? At the very least, if you have a good relationship with her, call her and see if she can help you out.

Good luck. This truly happens to more people than you know.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:04 AM on January 24, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
1. My sister is not emotionally stable and can barely take care of herself, much less provide any kind of emotional support to me. She lives with her boyfriend and he takes up all of her spare mental resources.

2. I also know that the minute I got back, my mother would materialize in town, tearfully "welcome me back" and then begin suggesting that if I really loved her, I never would have left. And oh, hey, since you're back, let's get an apartment together! She doesn't have a job and I know she'd expect me to take care of her.

3. The campsites I'm considering are within walking distance of Altadena, where I could then catch a bus to the city. It's not ideal, but I wouldn't be in the middle of the National Forest without a car. That, I agree, is stupid.

I'm sorry if it seems as though I'm rejecting everyone's advice. I just feel as though there's a lot of back story to this that impacts some of my options.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:16 AM on January 24, 2012

Disclaimer: Don't work for 'em, never used 'em, dunno anything about these sites other than that they list seasonal employment and volunteer opportunities - many of which include room and board:



Might be a way to not only keep yourself housed and fed, but have an adventure and do something new in the process?
posted by mie at 11:43 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

...also, I remain firmly in the "do NOT go home" camp. Not having a roof over your head, that can be remedied. Being too demoralized by perceived failure to try leaving again... much, much harder.

Also, don't think I specifically said, but I will cheerfully share any and all advice I can think of about getting by while "exploring the al fresco lifestyle" - feel free to ping me, directly or through a proxy.

And by the way, you should try to think of it that way. You are not homeless or down on your luck; you are exploring the artistic shadings of an al fresco lifestyle. Better to be pretentious than pathetic, right? ;)
posted by mie at 11:49 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Los Angeles Catholic Worker has a temporary-stay volunteer program. More information on LA Catholic Worker here. Catholic Worker has had a long tradition of NOT being in lockstep with mainstream Catholicism, which to many of us is a good thing.

Not sure if being Catholic is required of a volunteer; I suspect that a commitment to social justice and a good work ethic would be first and foremost on the list.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:20 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm concerned that you are still considering camping. Please look into all of the resources people are posting for you. If you are camping legally, it will actually be MORE expensive than staying at a hostel. Campsites are about $30 per night, not to mention buying a tent and a sleeping bag that will keep you sufficiently warm in the Altadena hills where it can be in the 30s at night. If you are considering camping illegally, I'm concerned.

Here is a listing of LA hostels (If you can scrape up the money at least you'll be inside)

The Venice hostel is looking for workers

I know it must feel embarrassing but your situation is perfectly understand able--can you post a request on your Facebook to see if any friends of friends know someone in LA. Best of luck and keep us posted.
posted by biscuits at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Not sure if being Catholic is required of a volunteer...

It most assuredly is not required.
posted by resurrexit at 12:46 PM on January 24, 2012

Everyone else has some really great advice, so I'm just going to chime in with one thought:

Join AmeriCorps! A lot of agencies which sign up for AmeriCorps are looking for folks like you (young people who have some college experience, are willing to relocate, don't require a huge salary).
posted by nerdcore at 1:46 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi, former homeless student here:

Listen to everyone telling you to find a women's shelter. I was about five years younger than you when I found myself in that situation, and I wish that I had possessed the know-how to locate a women's shelter straightaway. Good on you for coming here first to explore your options! Do you have at least one good outfit for interviews, clean underwear, light toiletries, and a few other pieces of clothing you can pack into a backpack or something? Make sure you have at least that and whatever the women's shelter doesn't offer you - and if the roommate is okay with it, leave your other things until a later date. Or, send them to a family member who wouldn't mind them there.

Please feel free to contact me. Your mind is probably spinning rapidly with all the possibilities and the fact that you're this close to being homeless. It's going to be okay.

Good luck.
posted by Ashen at 1:48 PM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi - I don't have any specific advice for you, but I live in LA. I am not able to offer a place to stay right now, but I'd be happy to offer any other support I can - I can drive to where you are, and we could brainstorm some ideas over coffee, or I could drive you to a women's shelter and check it out with you. You can memail me or email me (my email is in my profile).
posted by insectosaurus at 2:36 PM on January 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

"Also, please be careful about answering ads on craigslist for work in exchange for room-and-board. Many of those ads are fronts for human trafficking, and many women more educated and/or streetsmart than you have been swept up in this epidemic.


I've been seeing those adverts for years out here in LA. I always pictured some skeevy ex-movie producer drug addict up on the hill looking to trade sex and house cleaning for a room and a bed... Or more likely a fake advert to get girls to email sexy pictures... But I NEVER imagined it was human trafficking.

Sadly. It makes so much sense. Thanks, Juniperisque!
posted by jbenben at 3:13 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can be in Pasadena all day Thursday and can take you anywhere you need to go. Anywhere. Including to Venice Beach and back.
posted by jbenben at 3:18 PM on January 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Seriously, don't camp. It doesn't sound like you know what you're in for, and camping illegally rarely ends well and could get you ticketed and escorted out of the park, and possibly arrested if they catch you again. And as previously mentioned in this thread, camping legally is more expensive than a hostel. And you don't have a tent! Or a stove! All that costs money - find shelter in town before you think about camping.

And you're new in town, so I'm not sure if you know that it's going to get rainier and maybe a little colder until march or so.

You're under twenty-five, so try this place: http://myfriendsplace.org/index.html

Give them a call. They know "the system" better than we do, and they might be able to help you out. They don't provide shelter at night, but they provide shelter during the day - showers, etc. - and they can help you find a bed in a shelter.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:21 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If the idea of being a live-in nanny appeals to you, here are websites that are specifically devoted to that:



Scroll to the menu at the bottom of these pages, and you'll see that they have many other options besides babysitting - Senior care, pet sitting, personal assistants, etc. I believe you can set up a basic profile on these sites for free, and then start responding to ads that appeal to you. They do have other options that you have to pay for (such as getting a background check done on yourself), but I'm pretty sure you can get by without them to start out.

Your roommate sounds like my ex, who is bi-polar and has Asperger's. He would blow up over stupid stuff, and then 1/2 an hour later, act as if everything was fine. I learned to deal with it by just not responding to his anger*, and pretending nothing was wrong afterwards. This is not something I would recommend were you in an actual relationship, but it worked as a coping method until the situation could be changed.

*By not responding, I don't mean ignore him, I mean don't let yourself get upset. Just react calmly, don't respond emotionally to accusations or insults, and just say whatever you need to, even lie if necessary, to restore calm. Pacify him. Apologize for things you didn't do, if it will calm him down. Because you don't need the stress of fighting with him. And ultimately, it doesn't matter what he thinks of you; it matters that you keep yourself safe and sane.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:23 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, this may or may not be relevant to you, but the Gay and Lesbian Center has services for homeless queer youth, including some housing.

Posting that in case that helps you (or anyone else who might need this thread some day).
posted by jann at 6:25 PM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just want to warn you, avoid the shelters in central downtown LA. They are overloaded with people who are in very bad shape.
posted by fake at 9:33 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Modest Needs was pretty much invented for situations like this. They usually don't fund ongoing financial needs, but in general you've had your life together, and I have no doubt that with a stable place to be, and a decent job, you'd be back on the right track. There's no way to know unless you apply. Read their FAQ. Take up one of the LA Mefite's above on their offer to join you for a few hours. You can sit together for some coffee, fill out that form, and make more plans.

They also list their "alternate resources" by state. This links directly to that search field, then just select California from the drop-down menu.

Call the Catholic Charities of Los Angeles. Their number is (213) 251-3400. Tell them you are in an emergency dire situation, and do not know where to turn.

They run the Languille Emergency Shelter "which provides up to six weeks of shelter and emergency services while helping women obtain transitional or permanent housing. The shelter also offers drop-in services, which include warm showers and fresh meals, and mobile outreach to the homeless living on the streets."

Go to sleep tonight, wake up in the morning, and make a list. Start calling and stay strong!
posted by barnone at 9:37 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a great list of job resources in LA area.

It has a link to PATH Mall which is a one-stop shop for social services including some kind of job center. Here is a list of the social services there.

I am guessing that you do not want to reach out to family beyond your immediate drama zone because, of some thoughts along the lines of, "hey, they're the good ones, toiling away in their meager jobs and poverty-level lives. I'm the one who thought I was better than that, and wanted to try something else, and tried to claw my way out of that cycle. But who am I kidding? I will look like such a fool if I reach out."

But please consider everyone who you know and love. If you had $100 extra, and knew they'd be kicked out of their house with nothing, wouldn't you be so pissed off that they assumed you'd be judgmental and so they didn't bother to ask? I would be horrified that I let a loved one assume that. If you have OK connections with any of those family members, just think about this for a second, OK?

Do not dwell on feelings of shame and humiliation. You are more resilient than I've ever had to be. You have shown great strength and hope in the face of overwhelmingly difficult roadblocks. These social services are designed for people in exactly your situation. The American rhetoric of "pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" is completely false because it does not recognize the systemic & generational effects of poverty. You have not failed. And on top of that, YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. Do not let this knock you down.

I would be so honored if my (meager) tax dollars were going to help you directly. That would be approximately 890000 to the nth degree better than funding a wide variety of other government expenditures.

Keep us posted, OK?
posted by barnone at 10:07 PM on January 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have no idea what type of help the Episcopal Church of St Thomas might offer, but I know they are mighty cool.

I know them a bit and they are right down the street from me. I'm happy to call them for me if you memail:)
posted by jbenben at 10:07 PM on January 24, 2012

posted by jbenben at 11:32 PM on January 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: From the OP:
The night I posted the original thread, my roommate had texted me, "Come get your shit," which is his usual way of threatening to kick me out. I didn't have anywhere else to go, so I went back to the house and just ignored the raging because my resources were pretty much spent. Right now, he's acting like nothing ever happened which is also usual, but if the past is any indication, things will get bad again by the weekend. Right now I'm just enjoying the lull. I've had lots of offers to hang out, but I may spend the weekend by myself, just trying to catch my breath and looking over all the resources in this thread. I am overwhelmed with the response!

Things I've accomplished since posting my panicked thread:

I applied for and received emergency EBT, which is a huge help. Now all of my (incredibly meager) savings won't be literally eaten up. The emergency application requires sitting at the DPSS office for several hours a day for three days. Tomorrow is the final day, and I should get the card then. Though it's kind of a pain to walk there and sit, I am so grateful to have these resources available. It's really nice to not have to worry about where my next meal is going to come from.

Another good thing is that California requires all food stamp recipients to perform 24 hours of community service per month. I'm looking forward to having a reason to get out of the house and do something that doesn't involve panicking over my job search.

I also had to register with the California employment office, which may be helpful. At any rate, it can't hurt.

I've decided to abandon the camping idea. Some of the ideas posted here are much, much more accessible, though I do have camping experience. I can afford a hostel stay and transportation thanks to the generosity of MeFites. I was always taught not to accept help from anyone, so it's difficult for me, but I am grateful to all of you beyond what I am able to express. I promise that as soon as I am able, I'll come back and tell you all how I've repaid your kindnesses.

I registered with two temp agencies in downtown LA, since I'm not having much luck looking on my own.

I filled out 10 other applications as well, and am feeling particularly optimistic about one, as it is almost directly relevant to the coursework I did in university.

Since I can afford transportation now, I am planning to go out to Santa Monica this weekend to scope out some of the resources there, since it seems to be the nexus of sorts. It's so nice to have the freedom to go places without having to walk for miles and miles!

Anyway, I'm feeling much less desperate now than I was previously. I still have moments of overwhelming anxiety, but overall, it's as though things have slowed down enough so that I can control what is happening to me. Previously, I was allowing myself to get so worked up with stress that I was pretty much nonfunctional and not able to help myself. In the past few days, I've been trying to stop and take a step back before it gets to that point. I take a job-hunt break before I get the feeling of "oh my God, none of these are a match for me, I'll never find ANYTHING, I need to look through 100 more postings!!!!1" Also, I'll confess that I've been taking a few minutes at night to lie on my bed in the dark with a stuffed dog I've had for 20 years and listen to an...Enya playlist. It's so mortifying, but my dad listened to her when I was little and it's good for chilling out. If this weren't anon, I'd never confess that, but there you have it.

All of you are amazing, and have really given me some hope where previously there was none. I am in a much better place right now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Finally, I have a blog, though I'm trying to keep a lot of the really ugly drama off of it. If anyone's interested in a link for further updates, just send me an email. :)
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:30 AM on January 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

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