How to survive serious financial setback + eviction?
March 15, 2012 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Due to the current recession I've been under-employed for far too long. Unfortunately it's turning out to be a catastrophically long time, and now I need to know what my options are.

I've had a hard time in the last couple of years after being laid-off and thought I had it mostly under control with the little money I've earned doing temp and freelance work (and constantly searching for full time employment), and a little help from friends here and there. I've also severely curtailed my other expenses, but things snowballed out of control financially anyway. I'm now facing losing what little I still have, namely my apartment, and thinking about that makes me hyperventilate, so I'm trying to look forward instead. It's go-time, and I need to be prepared for what to expect.

I don't have a family to help me out, and I don't qualify for a bank loan. My "problem" is small, all things considered (<$2K), but that's little comfort... however, I know I'll eventually recover from all of this, basically as soon as I get a job. I suppose that's how it is for most people going through this -- the final blow isn't necessarily a huge, insurmountable challenge... it's just the final one in a series. I can't borrow money from a friend because my friends aren't rich and besides, owing friends money messes with my head and plunges me into depression, and I want to avoid any added stress right now. I can't bear the thought of dragging someone else down with all this. It's my problem, no one else's.

There are no unemployment or social welfare programs available to me, I've tried. Reasons given: I've had work too recently and am registered with several employment agencies that get me work sporadically, I have no dependent children, and I do not have a drug dependency or qualifying medical condition, so I'm considered able to earn my own way. The man at social services said that there's nothing holding me back, I get work regularly it seems, so hang in there, more work will come along, and I'll be fine. That wasn't as true as I was hoping it would be. Part of what's scaring me even worse is something I read on the blue recently, about how being poor creates more debt. I'm looking at only a $2K problem right now, but how will that balloon over the next __ months or so?

What I need to know is this: what happens next? I have a 14-day eviction notice (meaning they'll file that eviction in 14 days if the terms are not met) because I owe my landlord money, and they want the back rent, plus next month's rent on the first, no negotiating that, and if it doesn't happen I'm out. Realistically, earning that much money in that little time cannot happen. So it looks like I have at least two weeks to prepare for this, which I'm grateful for, and I've started getting things around so I can begin packing up my stuff. If they evict me, am I still responsible for the full lease I've just renewed two weeks ago, but hasn't actually begun yet? (I just renewed my lease after being offered that option because I'm a valued tenant!) But what should my next step be? I don't have a lot of friends, and living with them isn't an option. Are there places I can go that aren't scary shelters like I've seen on tv? I know the eviction process can take months, but I don't feel like I should just squat in my apartment because it's not right, and I can't afford to mix more guilt and bad feelings into this situation. It's humiliating enough as it is. It would feel like theft to stay and not pay, but staying and paying whatever I do earn means I won't have any money to my name when it comes time to be forced out, and I also don't want to be forced out. I'd like this transition to be as low-impact and non-humiliating as possible. I have a tiny bit of money in my account, another $100 coming because I got a little work this week, and no future work lined up, but since I'm temping and searching, I could possibly be working next week, which would mean more income. How to best spend any money I have once I've been told to leave? Hotels in my town are too expensive, and that amount of money is not enough to rent anything that I'm aware of, not even a room.

What happens in this situation? What do people do? Is there something I'm not thinking of? People recover from this kind of setback, don't they? Alternatively, if someone can think of a way to earn a couple grand in two weeks, I'm all ears. I am in Illinois, and my throwaway email is Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
owing friends money messes with my head and plunges me into depression

It is a cliché, but what are friends for? I borrowed the equivalent of 3 large from one of my dearest friends just last week. And not for the first time. He is the first person I will pay back when I get over this hump.

Yes, you do recover. Yes, it sucks for the moment. But Jesus H. Christ anonymous, if you can't turn to your friends when you are in a real pinch you do not have any friends.

A friend will help you move house, a real friend will help you move a body. Asking a friend who is somewhere in between to loan you some short term cash is no big deal and it is what friends do for each other. And your friend will know that you will be there for her when she needs it giving her some peace of mind.

Good luck to you. Hang in there. You got knocked down. It happens to the best of us. Get back in the ring and keep on swinging.
posted by three blind mice at 2:57 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is an extremely tough situation, and I can't say I've been through it.

However, I notice this situation has a lot of constraints, and you've tried really hard to work within them. Since you've given it your best shot, it's time to fight/cut out some of the constraints you've established.

This is a good candidate:

I know the eviction process can take months, but I don't feel like I should just squat in my apartment because it's not right, and I can't afford to mix more guilt and bad feelings into this situation.

That is a really honorable point of view, but at the same time, it is also not right that you don't have a job despite looking hard and taking everything you can get. I don't know how deep-seated this guilt is, but give yourself a break here, if you can.

Try to push the guilt aside. Promise yourself you'll pay back rent later and use that apartment. I am actually a landlord myself. It makes me shudder to think of the kind of damage not getting rent for a few months would do, but I still recommend you stay until you have another place. That's (in part) what eviction law is for, and that is the risk the landlord takes.

Alternatively, ask friends if you can borrow money or stay at their places while you try to find a better working situation. Again, promise to pay them back. Somebody as diligent as yourself at finding work will be able to do it and can be promised to do it.

Without a safe place to sleep and keep your stuff, as you well know, it's going to be a lot harder to find work and a way to stabilize your financial situation. Cashing in some friend/personal ideal chips before you are homeless is going to be much more effective than doing it after.

I'm really sorry you have to face such hard decisions after trying so hard, and I hope it works out.
posted by ignignokt at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2012 [11 favorites]

I can't borrow money from a friend because my friends aren't rich and besides, owing friends money messes with my head and plunges me into depression, and I want to avoid any added stress right now.

This is a tough situation, no doubt. But you are a smart, capable person who has weathered problems before and will again. You will not end up homeless, you are not going to move into a hotel. Unfortunately, you do have to face the stress of borrowing money from trusted friends. Can you borrow $1k from two friends, or $500 from 4? Can you barter with them, maybe trading baby-sitting, housecleaning, or yardwork (it's spring- lots of yard prep and spring cleaning to be done) as a way to pay back instead of paying back cash?

Other options: your area's YMCA, YWCA, and any religious organizations. Some offer cash grants for exactly this situation. Even if you aren't a churchgoer now, were you raised in any particular denomination? If so, now is the time to hit them up. Call and plead your case. Offer to barter, again, if you can.

After that, I think you should consider downsizing your current living situation, and using the next six weeks to put your emergency plan into action. This means selling possessions, if you haven't already, and looking into jobs outside your field or that provide living accommodations. I'm thinking of things like a live-in nanny, live-in caretaker to an elderly or disabled person, counselor-type person in a group home for disabled people or young people, supervisor at a dorm, house mother for a fraternity or sorority, or work at one of the national parks or summer resorts, if you are physically able to do that. Look at and apply to everything. Moving is scary and it completely sucks, especially when it means you are accepting that steady work in your field is not happening in the next six months or so. But it is a damn sight better than getting evicted.

Ask your landlord if they will let you out of your lease on April 30 in exchange for you paying them the 2k that you are going to beg, barter and steal in the next two weeks. Then use the next six weeks to rearrange your life to get yourself employed, even if you don't get employed in your current area.

This sucks, completely. But I'm going to say again: You are a smart, capable, hardworking person who is going to get through this with your guts and your gumption. Best of luck, I have a lot of faith in you.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

I can't borrow money from a friend because my friends aren't rich and besides, owing friends money messes with my head and plunges me into depression, and I want to avoid any added stress right now.

you need to change this thinking. if you were in a more secure situation and you had a friend whom you knew was going through the same thing, you would want to help them, wouldn't you? because that is what friends are for.

i was in a situation similar to yours but the cause of mine was a prolonged illness that left me unable to work (i am a freelancer/contractor). i couldn't borrow money from my parents and i was about to lose my car and i had other debts. i had always been fiercely independent and loathe to ask for financial help, but i could no longer afford not to. three different friends stepped in and loaned me money. several years later, i have paid one of them back, am in the process of paying the other back, and the third (a couple) have told me not to worry about paying them in any particular time frame. further, without my asking (because i never would have) i had friends who would take me out to dinner or pay me to sit for their dogs, or any other little thing—which weren't grand gestures but every little thing helped. because when i was poor, i literally could not spare the money to socialize with them at dinners or do anything really. i love and appreciate every one of those friends who saw my situation and helped me and, if the situation were reversed, i would gladly do the same.

and believe me, the stress of having to borrow money from your friends is nothing on the stress that getting evicted and having no place to live will cause.
posted by violetk at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you checked with the United Way's 211 service? It should have listings for emergency housing options. The Salvation Army or similar organizations will sometimes also help with rent.
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:36 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Check with local churches. Lots of them have programs set up to help people like you either financially or by helping you find work.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

In my state, temp work and freelance only counts against unemployment in the week you do the work. So if you pick up a temp job and make $250 in a week, that $250 gets deducted from whatever you might have qualified for from unemployment. The next week, if you don't work, unemployment kicks in like normal.

IL is almost certainly more worker friendly than where I live. You might want to double check how unemployment works in IL.
posted by COD at 4:30 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Borrow some money from a friend + get a roommate to split the cost of the apartment + stay after your eviction= keeping a place to live while dividing up the money issue so it doesn't fall to hard on anyone.

Pay your landlord and friend back a little at a time, or when you can. Once you lose your living space, getting everything back on track becomes a million times harder. You don't want to go that route. Better to have people a bit frustrated with the situation for a little while.

I am sorry, this sucks.
posted by Vaike at 4:43 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You say you can't live with friends, but what about couch-surfing with them? When my sister was in a dire financial situation, she would stay with someone for a few weeks, then rotate to another friend's house, etc. She sold her plasma, and got food through a service provided by Catholic social services, I can't remember the name of the specific program.

This situation is what friends are for. Most people are glad to help, you just need to have a delicate balance not to depend too much on one single person.

I agree with others that you should stay in the apartment as long as you can, but getting rid of the burden of a rent you can't afford might be a relief from the stress. That could come from staying during the eviction process, as well as couch-surfing.

You will want to arrange to have a mailing address, by renting a box, or having your mail sent to a friend's place.
posted by annsunny at 5:58 PM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out Catholic Charities; a friend of mine got rent assistance from them when in a similar bind. Also, do you have any skills, like construction or child care, that you might use to trade for a room, perhaps even in part? If so, post on Craigslist.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:25 PM on March 15, 2012

(by the way, my friend is not Catholic)
posted by Wordwoman at 6:26 PM on March 15, 2012

You can try Modest Needs, a charity that gives one-time grants to people who don't qualify for government assistance.
posted by jacalata at 6:28 PM on March 15, 2012

Find out which agency in your area is administering HUD's Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing (HPRP) Programs. They subsidized my rent for several months when I was in the same situation.

I paid them half of my income (which was General Assistance from San Francisco) towards rent and they made up the difference and paid the landlord directly.

Good luck! DO NOT LET the guilt and bad feelings take over -- they are your worst enemies in this. You WILL get through this and bounce back. I did.
posted by trip and a half at 6:42 PM on March 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Others will have good ideas for you, but in the meantime, ramp up all the ways you can earn. Yes, I know you've tried. But have you specifically made ads for services, and sent them all over your neighborhood, social circles, churches, etc?

Create a little poster/email saying that you really need some money, and want to earn it doing anything:
- babysitting
- scanning old photos into a digital file
- scanning old financial / legal records into an organized cloud storage system
- yardwork
- cleaning out the garage / basement with someone
- putting together Ikea furniture
- getting a nursery together
- going through receipts for tax time
- cleaning out kitchen cupboards and fridge and freezer
- dog walking while people are at work
- house sit
- petsit
- picking up kids after school, starting homework, getting settled with a snack
- run errands - dry cleaning? post office? returning clothes? shopping at target for the week's groceries?
- wash wool sweaters, get winter clothes ready for storage, pack them up
- going through a storage unit to get rid of stuff, or re-organize
- organizing a pile of stuff for a garage sale, advertising it, setting up the night of, helping during the day
- eldercare - sit with grannies while their primary caretaker does some errands, or has a break

You could price things a few different ways:
- Lump sum, e.g. $125 for a day's work
- Hourly, e.g. $10 an hour
- by the task, e.g. $50 to get the garden beds into shape or $15 for an hour walk with the dog

It might not get you $2k immediately, but it will get you closer. Even if I couldn't spare $1k to support a friend, I'd hire you to do a bunch of the stuff that I'd been dreading.

Contact your landlord and show him the above list too. Can you earn any of your rent by working? Painting other units? Tending to the garden? Putting on screen windows for the summer?

Good luck. You will get through this, even if it sucks in the process. Hang in there.
posted by barnone at 7:22 PM on March 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Draft out an email saying you can do all the things that barnone suggested. Send it to your friends, with an introductory paragraph describing your situation. All your friends. Encourage them to recommend you to their friends/neighbors. The benefit of working with/for friends instead of just signs on the street is that if I was going to need some garden help in April I would totally give a friend the cash now if that would help him sort out the apartment nonsense.
And, as early posters were saying, get over your fear of mixing friends and finances - I can understand being afraid to ask, but if someone volunteers their help (i.e. you send out this email looking for odd-jobs work, and your friend says "Sorry to hear things are so bad, here's $1500, I know you're the kind of guy who won't be happy till I'm paid back, but don't let it stress you out"), the proper response is "Yes, thank you, you are fantastic!" not "oh, no, I couldn't possibly".
posted by aimedwander at 6:52 AM on March 16, 2012

Having worked for a charity that provided rent assistance, I will say it is unlikely that you could get it for your situation. In other words, try the other options first. The charity I worked for along with those I cooperated with required a sustainable plan for the future. That is, they would help those with provably temporary emergencies that caused their problems as long as the cause was going to disappear.
What the charity counselor might be able to do is describe the local options available to you.
I sympathize with you in that government agencies do not help most people in need (not in the US at least).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:55 AM on March 16, 2012

Look into housesitting, for real. If you were closer and seemed nonsketchy, I'd hire you for a week to let the dogs out, feed the cats and pick up the mail. You wouldn't even need a car, there's a train to MKE and plenty of bus service.
posted by desjardins at 9:38 AM on March 16, 2012

Is joining the military an option?
posted by maurreen at 9:52 AM on March 16, 2012

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