I need a short term solution to homelessness of a four person family (2 adults, 2 children) in the Los Angeles area?
November 5, 2012 1:00 PM   Subscribe

My family (self, fiance, and two children, ages 4 and 7) is currently homeless in Los Angeles. We are at a complete loss here... can anyone provide any insight, advice, anything at all to help us figure out what on earth to do?

It's a looooong story, but to sum it up as much as possible, I was an independent student in my hometown (anytown, USA...somewhere in the Midwest..). I had a 4.0 GPA after earning my Associate's Degree, as well as several impressive accolades in regards to all of the community outreach I had done, scholarship foundations I founded, and student government positions I held (VP of the Honors Student Council, for instance). I discovered that I couldn't afford to continue my education at any of the local four-year universities, but as a community college student at that time, I couldn't complete my Bachelor's unless I transferred to a 4-year. So, on a tip from a friend at school, I started applying to some of the more prestigious schools all over the country, that would pay my full tuition if I could just be deemed worthy enough to be accepted.

I was endlessly thrilled when I received my acceptance packets, from Columbia in New York, and USC in L.A. Going to either one would mean moving across the country, but I didn't have a support system to speak of in my hometown anyway, and attending one of these far away schools was my only hope of achieving a Bachelor's Degree (and therefore, in my opinion, a better future for my children), so we decided to go for it. We moved to L.A. a little over a year ago....and we've been battling homelessness ever since.

The thing is that the cost of living out here is about four times what it was in my hometown- but minimum wage is the same. I honestly don't know how people without high paying careers are possibly affording this!! My goal, obviously, is to obtain my degree and THEN have a high enough paying career to be able to afford this cost of living... but I'm currently at a point where my entire college career is in jeopardy! My struggle with raising children and being homeless over the last year has led to being forced to withdraw from classes, and as a result I am now on academic and financial aid probation. If I don't solve my housing problem so I can start catching up on my schoolwork, I will be kicked out of college- permanently!!! I won't be able to return unless I can pay for it myself, which I simply cannot do... my inability to pay the state school's tuition in my hometown, even with the full aid of the Pell grant and student loans, was why I moved out here (for the full scholarships) in the first place... if I flunk out and am left with the "you can only come back if you can pay for it yourself" option, that will simply be the end of my college career. I can't stress the seriousness of that particular aspect of this whole nightmarish situation enough-- I'm about to lose my entire life's hopes and dreams... any hope of giving my children ANYTHING that they deserve in life!

I am disheartened, ashamed, miserable... I just don't know what to do anymore. I am currently waiting on a phone call in regards to a long term housing program that my family may be eligible for, in which case we may actually be housed sometime in the next month or two, which would obviously be WONDERFUL. However, even with that INCREDIBLE opportunity, that still leaves my family struggling to sleep and survive entirely in a very small car for, potentially, several more weeks (or even months). What we need is a short-term solution, or at least, that's how it appears. We should be able to solve our long term problem with this program that we are eligible for, but we are truly at the end of our rope with sleeping in our car... we really need some OTHER short-term solution until we get into permanent housing.

We have contacted EVERY shelter (that we've been able to find, anyway), and NONE of them have space for all four of us. So I am posting this question here to see if anyone out there has any ideas, anything at all. All I want to do is earn my degree and work my tail off so my kids can have the life I never had... but right now we're living in a tiny car and I feel like more of a failure as a parent than ever. Should I have just stayed and worked at McDonald's for the next fourteen years, until my kids were out of the house, before trying to earn a degree so I could give them a better life....??? I wouldn't have been able to give them a better life until after they were grown if I had done it that way... but they might not have had to live in a car for a period of time if I had done it that way.... I just don't know... :'(

So, again, I'm throwing this to my fellow MeFites in hopes of a better solution. If anyone has any questions, don't hesitate to ask-- our "story" is a veeeery long one, and I tried to keep this short (the kids are fighting and I have a very limited amount of time with internet access, so I always have to be as quick as I can!), so there are, inherently, endless amounts of details left out here, and I don't know which ones might be pertinent to certain people in order for them to provide some kind of advice or idea, so just don't hesitate to ask me anything; I'm happy to answer, especially if it helps me find some kind of solution to this terrifying situation! Either way I do thank you all for taking the time to read this and I wish you all a wonderful day.

P.S. It occurs to me that this detail is probably important- our family currently has about thirty dollars to our names, and my fiance and I are both looking for employment every day, although it is difficult without being able to keep ourselves cleaned up. However, we have put in about fifty resumes each (seriously!), but that has only yielded ONE interview so far, and the results of that interview have yet to be determined. Nothing else has looked at all promising so far, unfortunately, but we are trying our best.

I will leave it at that for now... Again, thank you all in advance for your time and energy here. We greatly appreciate it.
posted by chasethecarrot to Human Relations (69 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this sounds pretty rough. Is it possible that a women's shelter could take you (provided you are female) and the kids, leaving your fiance to rough it in the car or at a men's shelter? I realize that this is very much not ideal, but you could probably work it that you could still see each other every day, and a shelter would probably be better than the car for the kids.
posted by SeedStitch at 1:04 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know this is a crappy potential situation, but would things work better if your family stayed in Anytown USA while you struggled through your school? It's a lot easier for one adult to get by on low funds, especially with a scholarship, than an entire family. This of course depends on what family support your fiance has back home.
posted by mannequito at 1:07 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Surely the USC Counseling Services department can provide some sort of help with your situation?
posted by erst at 1:08 PM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Does USC know that you are homeless and that you are supporting two minor children? Has that been part of the discussion when you've withdrawn from classes and been placed on academic probation? Can you tell us what kind of communications you've had with the administration about your finances? That might help us point you to some school resources.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:10 PM on November 5, 2012 [45 favorites]

Are you sure your university doesn't have resources to help you? They may not be able to provide housing, but they may be able to provide an emergency loan or a better financial aid package. Many, many students borrow living expenses. Also, your university probably has academic resources to help non-traditional students, and just signing up for those resources may help keep you in school.
posted by serialcomma at 1:10 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're supporting everybody on student loans or one income, that would be incredibly difficult. If it's much cheaper to live elsewhere (e.g. your hometown) or your partner can find work elsewhere, maybe consider maintaining two households. The one who's without kids can live in small/cramped/shared housing to save up money. Depending on how stable you need, the one adult maybe even be able to couchsurf/housesit. (Ex. I'm in Seattle, and my partner and I are traveling about one week every month, and we have a friend in a similar situation, without kids, who just goes around housesitting/petsitting for us and some other friends for free so she can save up money for housing deposit.)

I'm sorry you're in such a difficult position. Best of luck.
posted by ethidda at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here is a link to a list of emergency shelters.

You may have to split up from your fiance to get into a shelter with your kids. For the sake of your children DO THIS!

Is it possible for the children to go live with their father? Does he pay support? Is your fiance their father? If so, can you send the kids back east with your fiance to live with grandparents or other family members until you solve your problem?

Have you signed up for WIC, Food Stamps, Section 8 and/or any other public assistance?

I believe that USC has student housing for families, why aren't you in one of those situations?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you are in this situation. Many hugs to you and your family.

Have you looked into whether USC has family housing? At the University I went to, the university owned some off-campus apartments that were available cheaply to graduate students and undergraduates with children. I did a quick google search for you and found this webpage. If you took out a student loan, you might be able to cover the cost of housing -- it would give you a stable place where you could catch up with classwork, and look for other assistance (food stamps, etc.). You'd also be able to prepare for job interviews.

Are you religiously affiliated? Many churches run transitional housing problems that rent apartments or houses out to families in situations like yours. A priest or minister can also help you get a social worker, who might be able to provide assistance. Contact whatever denomination you have a connection to or is geographically convenient to where you are.

Also, for short term cash flow, call the psychology department and ask if there are any studies recruiting participants. Many of them pay cash.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are you getting foodstamps? Are you getting supplemental emergency food (up to eight times a year) from Catholic Charities (or some other foodbank)? Can you shower somewhere on campus, like a gym? Are there homeless shower facilities in the area? If not, can you find public shower facilities at a nearby beach (probably about a dollar a shower)? Or a truck stop where you can buy a shower (probably nicer and probably $5 a shower)?

I am on the streets in San Diego, with two adult sons. You can check my blogger account (in profile) for an idea of some of the homeless resources just south of you. You are welcome to memail me.
posted by Michele in California at 1:15 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you or your fiance have family or relatives anywhere else that he and the kids could go live with temporarily? I would say that the kids should not be exposed to that situation and they would be better served being someplace with a cheaper standard of living.

The definitely check into what the university can offer to help support you. Talk to the university counseling services or professors that may be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by JJ86 at 1:16 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We definitely considered having me and the kids stay in a women's shelter, with my fiance staying in the car, but we haven't been able to find a shelter with enough space for the three of us, either. We found one place with space for myself and ONE child, but I'm not going to "Sophie's Choice" my kids for who has to sleep in the car!

As for having my family go back home while I stay here and finish my education, we also considered that, but it's unfortunately too late for that to really be a viable option.. We already left, and he doesn't have resources back home, so they would be stuck in a car there for some amount of time, as well. Until he could get a job and save up enough to get them a place... I'm thinking, and I'm not one hundred percent sure about this, but I THINK that in the amount of time it would take to do that, we will hopefully have our long-term housing here.

Finally, as for the idea of any kind of support from USC- I went all the way to THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICE with this problem. We've been out here struggling with this for OVER A YEAR. They literally told me to try to find a shelter and/or see what the county could do to help us...and THAT'S IT. This school, with one of the most extensive and incredible alumni networks of any school in the nation, and billions of dollars in resources itself, basically brushed me off. They have made it quite clear that they would rather see me flunk out and therefore be gone than offer me any sort of viable solution or assistance with my family's housing problem.
posted by chasethecarrot at 1:17 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't help w/ the homeless part but I wanted to tell you there is no reason for you to feel ashamed. What you just described in your question obviously reflects an incredible amount of strength and tenacity, enough that you should never feel ashamed of yourself no matter what.
posted by discopolo at 1:18 PM on November 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

In that case, cut your losses and leave the university. Go back to where you can have a slight support from your relatives until you can start making ends meet. You can always return to finish your education at a later date but continuing to try and get a degree that has no guarantee of a happy rainbow ending is too great of a risk.
posted by JJ86 at 1:22 PM on November 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

And I'm so sorry if this is incredibly stupid as an idea, but doesn't USC have a School of Social Work. They must have smart and resourceful professors w/ an understanding of how to help you guys.

Also, if you have to drop out, do it and apply to smaller colleges in less expensive areas that have a reputation for helping non traditional female students earn their BAs. I highly recommend the programs at Smith and Mount Holyoke. The tend to provide a more supportive environment and the non traditional students are respected by the administration, faculty, and traditional undergrads.

And after hearing what the president said to you, USC is dirt in my book. They have a social work program there, and they don't even refer you anywhere? That's so low of them.
posted by discopolo at 1:27 PM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

A few years back there was a blog called "Homeless at NYU." A student couldn't get enough financial aid to dorm, started living in the school library, and blogged about his life. When the blogger started getting mainstream press coverage and the university caught wind of his story, they arranged free housing for him for the rest of the semester. NY Times story here.

Do you have documentation of your dealings with USC? If you do, would you feel comfortable approaching local media outlets and trying to get some resolution that way? I cannot imagine USC wants to be in the news for turning its back on a student in your situation.
posted by serialcomma at 1:28 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

you say you don't want to ""Sophie's Choice" my kids for who has to sleep in the car!" and i get that as a reaction - but refusing to make that choice means that both of your kids and you and your fiance are sleeping in the car. if you solve the issue for half of you, other solutions might present themselves. at the very least, if you put 2 of you in a shelter, then you will be there when another spot opens up, building up relationships with the staff so that spot goes to your other child. this will also add some stability and the ability to do your studies and shower. it will also make the car less cramped.
posted by nadawi at 1:30 PM on November 5, 2012 [15 favorites]

Actually, I don't know if this organization can help you but I donated to them awhile back and it looks like they have an LA office.

LIFT-Los Angeles
1910 Magnolia Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 545-4050

Please give them a call. And google them. I can't seem to link to their website.
posted by discopolo at 1:31 PM on November 5, 2012

Contact the alumni association directly? Or one of the service organisations on campus? Most Greek organisations donate a lot to places like shelters, maybe they can pull some strings to get you in somewhere.

But yeah, consider transferring because the school should have been more helpful. I'm shocked they just brushed you off.
posted by fshgrl at 1:33 PM on November 5, 2012

Have you already called 211? (or 211.org?) They'll have a lot of resources for your whole county, and they help with all sorts of things. Pretty much most things, seems like.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh and definitely try Catholic Social Services, even if you're not a bit Catholic. They have a short term crisis program for families.
posted by fshgrl at 1:34 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you are going through this.

I do not know of any immediate resources to help your situation. Talk with the Dean of Students, to see if there is some way to defer your scholarship until you can get established. The Student Counseling Services (temporary offices Stonier Hall, Suite 315) may be able to provide some help. You could also try contacting the School of Social Work, they would have better knowledge of the services available in the area. Their building is in the north part of campus, north of New/North/EVK, next to PSD.
posted by jraenar at 1:43 PM on November 5, 2012

I don't have any advice about the short-term crisis, but nthing the suggestion that you withdraw from this school -- not just because they responded in such an apparently heartless way to your plight, but because you need to get on your feet, find stability where you are, and then pursue your degree. This semester/quarter is likely shot, and you're not going to be able to get into a safe, stable position, from which you can excel as a student, before January, when the next term starts. Find a short-term solution using all of the very good advice above, but then find a medium-term solution in which one or both of you has an income. From there, make a new plan for college -- a better plan, more informed by the realities of what you've experienced.

Also, it's not clear from your original post whether you've taken out any student loans, or whether you were trying to rely entirely on the full scholarship. But I'm guessing that, whatever happens, it's not going to be realistic for you to try to support a family on scholarships alone. Any scholarship is going to be designed with traditional, non-parent students in mind. If your fiance can't get a job that would cover your living expenses, you're going to have to take out loans. That is, I think, just the reality of going to school full-time when you're a parent. (I have a kid, and I am currently in law school. My tuition is completely covered by scholarships, but I am still relying on loans for living expenses.)
posted by thehandsomecamel at 1:46 PM on November 5, 2012

What's your current student loan situation? Have you maxed out your Stafford eligibility for the year?
posted by mr_roboto at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2012

chasethecarrot are you willing to go public with your identity and let people know that USC is willing to let a student family live in a car? Because there ARE alumni who are in a position to help, but they have to know who you are a) for you to be credible and b) in order to help you.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:48 PM on November 5, 2012 [29 favorites]

Modest needs is another online loan site.
posted by jacalata at 2:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you need to withdraw this semester and get your feet underneath you. Your children need a roof over their heads now.

Have you talked to an academic advisor at the department about your situation, regarding your academic future at USC if you withdraw this semester? If you are beyond the deadline within which you can withdraw with no consequence, see if there is some extenuating circumstances type waiver that you could apply for.
posted by chicxulub at 2:17 PM on November 5, 2012

Contact the Daily Trojan at USC and tell your story - like DarlingBri said, there are plenty of people that can and will help.
posted by Red Desk at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

USC has a very prestigious journalism school, and I think what you are going through would make for a very compelling story for the school paper, especially given the president's brush-off. I wonder if they might be able to help you.

Do you have an advisor? What about a professor that you really connected with? I assume you went to the Dean of Students and the student psych about this, but maybe another academic could help.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the OP were to go back to the Midwest, it would be winter and more dangerous to be homeless.

I don't know how you get money, but a full shopping cart of cans would double or triple your cash on hand.

You might try hostels (e.g., in Venice), which in slow months (I don't know if there are any in LA the way there are in New Mexico) might offer housing in exchange for housecleaning or staffing the front desk.

I know you're looking for housing now, but you talk about getting cleaned up for interviews. Here is the LA affiliate of Dress for Success. This is their list of partner groups, which include a lot of shelters. (you have to be referred by one of those groups.)
posted by salvia at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

The thing is that the cost of living out here is about four times what it was in my hometown- but minimum wage is the same. I honestly don't know how people without high paying careers are possibly affording this!!

Most people who have children and don't make a lot of money live way the hell outside LA. The commute sucks, but housing gets significantly cheaper if you're willing to drive an hour or more. I'm sorry if this is duh-obvious and terrible advice, but where have you been looking for housing?

Think: Palmdale. Canyon Country. Inland Empire.

And while I'm sure this is also duh-obvious advice, but just in case: Have you applied for jobs at USC? You probably won't be able to find full-time work, but some income is better than no income.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you declared a major? Contact your advisor, your department chair, and the dean for your year, as well as the head of the office your funding is dispersed from.

Also, consider contacting any of the religious student groups on campus that may maintain off campus housing. For example, at UMD, the Episocopalian student group has a house where they can host people for a few nights/weeks.
posted by spunweb at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, have you done your FAFSA? I would also contact your school's Financial Aid office to find out about emergency loans.

:big hugs:

You are not the first person to be homeless and in college, with big dreams of a better life for you and your family. YOU CAN DO THIS.
posted by spunweb at 2:52 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

And sorry if this is more useless advice, but just in case: Call the YMCA and see if you can at least shower there, even if they can't offer housing. That might help with the getting cleaned up for job interviews thing.

And to make quick cash, you and/or your fiance could try "working" as a paid audience member. It's not much money, but it's often enough cash for a tank of gas or something. Try Standing Room Only first.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:55 PM on November 5, 2012

You could seek funds on the crowdfunding sites like CrowdTilt or GoFundMe that allow such projects.
posted by Dansaman at 2:57 PM on November 5, 2012

Are you, perhaps, a vet? if so, you might want to check here, the Bill Smith Homeless Veterans Project in LA.
posted by HuronBob at 3:00 PM on November 5, 2012

USC has a very large and involved (and it's true, WEALTHY) alumni community, who care about USC-goers. Put it in the paper.
posted by np312 at 3:17 PM on November 5, 2012

Do you qualify for Section 8? And unlike others here, I think you should make this anonymous, until you want to go public. Google's not your pal.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:21 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, the USC Catholic center actually has a homeless outreach ministry. Even if you are not Catholic, I would consider reaching out to them for help.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:38 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Those children have to be your priority before your education. Do you have any family that can take you in temporarily so you can search for employment? Or, I hate to say this, could do temporary custody of them till you can get your life in order?

Are either you or your fiance eligible to go into the military?

And yes, investigate section 8 housing.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:51 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Worst case, you lose your financial aid eligibility at USC; this doesn't mean you can't finish your degree. Columbia and USC are really good schools; you must be an awesome student to get in; but they were probably not a good fit with your family/financial situation.

I highly recommend the programs at Smith and Mount Holyoke. The tend to provide a more supportive environment and the non traditional students are respected by the administration, faculty, and traditional undergrads.

Yes. Smith has really gone to the mats at times for nontraditional students on public assistance. And Western Mass is not exactly cheap but it's not LA.
posted by BibiRose at 3:53 PM on November 5, 2012

USC appears to have a student organization called SC Homeless Initiative. You can email them at schinitiative at gmail dot com. In sounds like they do community focused work, but they may have contacts that can help.
posted by cecic at 4:00 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

This seems like an obvious moment to seek out an emergency loan via the school to get you some money.

Go to the media with the president's refusal to help. Heads will start rolling quickly.
posted by zug at 4:01 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't have to be ashamed. Life happens. Things happen to people. Bad things happen to good people. Things are really unfair right now in a lot of ways, and a lot of people are taking notice.

That shame is corrosive – it eats away at your dignity, saps your courage, and hinders your creativity. All the very things you need to solve your problems right now.

There's lots of great advice here. Keep reaching out. Don't give up. You sound capable of solving this problem. Keep going, no matter how dark it gets, and don't give up.

And please don't be ashamed. You are not alone. Lots of people are in hard times right now. You sound like a smart capable person. Don't worry about how you ended up in this problem. That story doesn't matter. Just keep going. Let your discouragement turn into resolve.

Yes, it's easy to say and harder to do. But it can be done. Lots of us have done it. And you can do it do. Most of us I'm guessing didn't do it alone. We had help. Sometimes help is hard to find. Sometimes help is really hard to find. Just don't give up. You will make it through this. And your children will respect you for it.
posted by nickrussell at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure that going public is going to get you anything useful. USC gave you a full ride, but without housing? Did the Financial Aid Office tell you how to apply for a Pell grant or FARFSA? I think it's not realistic to think you can get through undergrad at USC without financial aid.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:04 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you lived alone, would your scholarship cover housing? Or is the issue that you have an extra three mouths to feed and the scholarship money doesn't cover both that and housing? I'm also a bit confused about what your loan situation is... All that said, here is what I would do:

nthing that you should contact one of the religious or homeless-focused organizations on campus. Is there an LGBT or Women's center on campus? They might know of resources. Make this your priority today.

Once you've gone through that option, you need to get someone to advocate for you from within the USC bureaucracy. One option is to go to the academic advisers and explain that this is an emergency situation and you need help navigating housing and financial aid. Even if you've tried this already, it might be worth another shot, usually the people in these offices want to help you, maybe last time was just bad luck? You probably don't want to go to a professor, they don't usually know how these things work. Go to the office that does nothing but advise freshmen, even if you're not a freshman. If no such office exists, go to the Dean of Students. If they try and brush you off, keep repeating that this is an emergency and that it's their job to help students with this stuff.

Also, have you tried going down in person to Financial Aid? The forms and procedures can be complicated and it's harder for them to hide behind them if you're physically there. At the very least you should be able to take out Stafford loans, which will get you ~10K over the academic year. They can also qualify you for work-study jobs.

That said, if you can get the student paper to write a story about you, that might be the fastest solution, although there's no guarantee. If you decide to go this route, I would try and make sure it's not just a single article-maybe they can split it into two parts or have a story one day and an editorial the next? You don't want it dying down too soon (but don't worry about this part too much now). If this happens, you should make sure to send the article to whomever is in charge of the alumni organization.

Finally, if you really desperately need $10 or $15 tomorrow, try signing up for a psych study. Sign ups are usually online and you might have to email the department secretary to get the site. It's certainly not any sort of long-term solution but maybe it'll help a bit right now?
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

USC's housing website lists the "East" area as having apartments and family style living, along with living areas for "Spring Admits". Have you asked anyone in the Housing Office (or even figure out who the Area Coordinator/Director for the East Area) if they have an opening in that area that you can stay in until January on an emergency basis?

Also, have you made friends with any of the Greek members in classes? Christmas is coming up and many chapters will "adopt" a family for the holidays to provide food and presents. If you contact the Greek Life office and ask them to let the chapters know that you are a current student they may be very willing to adopt your family now and help you out. Living in a chapter house may not be super awesome but if they have some space available they might be willing to help you out (or even allow your family to shower there or something). Sorority houses have more stringent rules than fraternity houses, which means they would be less "out of control" but also be more restrictive in what they could provide. Alpha Chi Omega's national philanthropy is supporting domestic violence shelters and while you aren't (hopefully!) in a domestic violence situation, sheltering a woman and her children is close enough that they just might be willing to help.

Also check with any of the religious organizations. They could have connections with churches that can help.

You should seriously look at the cost of staying on campus at USC (in family housing) vs trying to find housing on your own. If you qualified for a full tuition scholarship you could use loans or grants to help pay for housing on campus. Additionally, getting a job in the foodservice areas of campus (for you or your fiance) might get you some food discounts or if you do catering you might be able to bring home a plate of food at the end of the night (legal or not, it happens. Just don't ask about it during the interview!).
posted by MultiFaceted at 5:20 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Random thought: I know getting married isn't free, but it keeps occurring to me that it might help you qualify for more/different services, especially with your school.

In any case, is your older child is school? This suggests that No Child Left Behind might actually be of use for something!
posted by teremala at 5:32 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know what kinds of jobs you've been shooting resumes at, but you and your fiance should really look into restaurants for wait staff positions. It's hard work but it's been the go-to job for people new to LA for decades because there is a high (maybe a little less these days) turn around and it pays well if you work hard.

Don't fool around with resumes. Pick some targets and visit before or after lunch rushes and ask to speak to a manager. Let them know about your situation. Everybody has someone who needs to be fired. You're a good replacement! Even with one income, in a month, you may be able to save enough to get into a motel room long enough to save for an apt.

Other jobs your SO should inquire about in person at restaurants; bar back and food prep, kinda guy-jobs typically but also pay OK and not terribly difficult to find.

Another reason to NOT go public YET; your kids. Typically, from my experience as the husband of a teacher, homeless school-age kids (kindergarten and up) end up in he hands of the state. That's a nightmare. I've seen it.

Keep a low profile, get employed, get into a residence and get back into school. You CAN do it!
posted by snsranch at 5:55 PM on November 5, 2012

(If you do not yet have food stamps:)

Since you only have $30.00, if you apply for foodstamps, you can get it expedited as an emergency situation. They will process it in 3 days instead of the usual thirty. So apply, online or in person, while you are broke and have under $100.00. Merely being homeless doesn't make it an emergency. If the paperwork is too much to deal with, Catholic Charities will probably help with that piece (at least they do in San Diego).

I have a Certificate in GIS from UC-Riverside that is the equivalent of master's level work and did not feel up to doing the paperwork myself while homeless. If you can't cope, don't be ashamed. Accept whatever help is available that you feel you need.

posted by Michele in California at 6:04 PM on November 5, 2012

Also, for getting cleaned up, so long as you have a valid student ID card, you should have access to the gym, which has showers.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know getting married isn't free, but it keeps occurring to me that it might help you qualify for more/different services, especially with your school.

Careful with this, it can really change your financial aid situation. Might be a good option if you decide to put off school for a while though.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:26 PM on November 5, 2012

I think you are making a mistake in framing your decision as binary. If a significant amount of your objective is "i want to work my tail off so my kids can have the kind of life I never had", please realize that the choice does not come down to getting your degree or working at McDonalds for 14 years. There are many jobs that provide good livelihoods that require no college degree. Sales would be one avenue where someone with considerable ambition and communication skills could do quite well. You seem to have both qualities. I have hired many sales people in my life, if you have the following three qualities you could probably make a pretty good living:

1) Motivated
2) Opportunistic
3) Good communicator (particularly good listener, underrated skill for a salesperson)

I realize you might not LIKE sales, but you can make a LOT of money doing it if you are sufficiently motivated. I notice that nowadays most people do not seem to really like their jobs. Many do seem to like the lifestyle their jobs provide however. That might have to be enough. Another good thing about selling is it is quite a portable skill set. You would be hard pressed to find a job that requires less "hard skills" where you can make as much money as a doctor or lawyer.

Good luck with any choice you make.
posted by jcworth at 7:20 PM on November 5, 2012

Another thought: Have you been trying to figure out a "Plan B" if this housing thing doesn't come through? Tuition for a year at USC is close to $50,000 (without housing). A rough check of several state schools in the Midwest (and down towards Arkansas) show that their tuition is about half that (give or take). So...if you can't get housing in the USC area soon, what would happen if you transferred to a school in a cheaper area? I'm assuming that since you already have an Associates, you should only need 2 or 3 years to earn your Bachelors and one of those years is already done (if I understand you correctly).

By no means am I telling you to give up on your dream, but I do think that at some point you have to know when too much is too much, and by changing your path you can be even more successful than you can be right now (with all this hanging over your head). Get your fiance to do some work in finding a place to live/job/whatever, and you sit down with an adviser and find out where you stand academically and what transferring would look like. Without knowing where you came from (and you don't have to share publicly) it's hard to determine costs, etc. for a more accurate comparison. You may want to consider a place that has ample housing resources and potentially more job opportunities while you're in school.

I would also take a good look at your financial aid package and what your possibilities are there. Pell Grants and loans have limits so you don't want to burn through those limits without progressing academically. You also don't want to be burning through those dollars at USC when you could be using them in a less expensive area and therefore have them longer. Additionally, if you don't have income right now that will change your FASFA for the upcoming year. That might be a good thing...that might not be. Are you using all of those dollars in the most efficient way possible?

One other thing I'm not clear about: Have you been homeless for the whole time you've been at USC? Or is this a new development?
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:30 PM on November 5, 2012

Another random thought: Is there anyone you know that would be willing to let you live in their mobile home/camping trailer for a while to have shelter? Maybe you or your fiance could do yardwork or something to help pay them back. Like someone said above, a Student ID should get you into the fitness center to shower. Likewise, any friend you have may be able to get you in to their residence or help sign your kids in as a guest to the fitness center to get showers, especially if you have a job interview coming up.
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:37 PM on November 5, 2012

From an anonymous member:
There is not a comprehensive social safety net for homeless families in LA County, however families do get considerably better treatment than homeless individuals. The Winter Shelter Program has begun. It typically puts single adults into dormitory style housing and gives motel vouchers to families. That is a reasonably likely option for short-term housing. The motel can be used as a base for working on a longer term solution.

This is a link (PDF) for a directory of Winter Shelter operators - make a telephone call to the nearest one. If you can't get an answer, walk in. Or call this countywide hot line number for the Winter Shelter Program: 1-800-548-6047

One resource for finding longer-term help is Los Angeles County's Referral Guide for Homeless Children, Youth and Families. It can be downloaded here: Shelters (PDF)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:45 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ill repeat the question asked several times above:
Why haven't you taken out any student loans?
Since you have a full ride to USC (apparently excluding housing costs?) you could take out enough loans to cover housing and food costs, and still graduate with much less debt than most of your classmates. Plus student loans - at least the federal ones which should more than cover your living expenses -are basically the cheapest financing available for an unemployed person with no assets (ie a college student).
posted by banishedimmortal at 9:01 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

As someone who has dropped out of school more times than I care to admit (mental illness), I would just like to point out that if you withdraw now your dreams aren't permanently ruined. It's best if you can get Ws (or whatever USC uses for a withdrawal code) than Es/Fs, but even complete failure doesn't mean that college is permanently out of the question.

Student loans are something you should really be considering--many, many people live off of student loans while attending college. I have a friend who pays several months of rent each time he gets his semester loans just to make sure he has a roof over his head if nothing else.
posted by xyzzy at 9:26 PM on November 5, 2012

I want to give a counterpoint to the comments which can be construed as suggesting that it might be better for chasethecarrot's kids if she were to give up her educational goals. It might be, but that hasn't been my experience as the daughter of a non-traditional student. This doesn't answer the actual question asked, but I worry that chasethecarrot will get discouraged and depressed about her choice to pursue a bachelor's degree reading this thread, on top of her other more immediate problems. I know how much my mother has questioned herself about if her pursuit of higher ed was too selfish, at least. Some of the comments in this thread would certainly have stirred my mother's guilt, as they would combine in her mind with all the other admonitions she got over her life about being a good mother. My experience refutes this. My mother going back to college was absolutely the best thing that happened to our family, and was strongly positive for me (her daughter) in particular.

My mother went back to school after all kids were in grade school full-time. It took her six years to finish her bachelor's degree (there was some getting back into the swing of things after being away from school for 10+ years, there was some waiting to be eligible for in-state tuition after moving, there was some not taking quite a full course load because of work), and then she went on and got a PhD. Back in the early '90s, family student housing at the state university that she was at was highly subsidized, which helped *a lot* when my mother was a grad student (getting paid at least, but a minimal grad student salary) and my father was only able to find work about half the time. Before that, my father had regular work, so my mother only had to take out some loans to pay for tuition. Which was reasonable at a state university back in the 80s. Universities are very different now. Campus housing is seen as a revenue stream, not as a service to help level the playing field for students with families or students from less economically advantaged backgrounds. And tuition is through the roof, even at public universities. chasethecarrott, you have a lot more challenges than my mother faced, and I'm not near the LA area, and am sorry I can't contribute useful suggestions for your immediate problem.

But (to reiterate - but it's important!) my mother going back to school was the best thing that happened to our family. We were always housed and fed, so a bit better of a situation; but we spent a lot of time being among the poorer kids in our school, with attendant social pressure. Despite that, it was worth it. So yeah, keeping your kids safe is crucial, but you and your fiance are looking for jobs already, and having trouble finding work because the economy is broken, so it's not clear to me that you putting off college will help much with that. Although I think the suggestions about some other schools that are equally good academically but more supportive of non-traditional students are a very good idea to look into. Colleges and universities vary *a lot* when it comes to provision of financial aid. Look for one with a strong need-based financial aid program; and programs like the ones mentioned at Smith and Mt. Holyoke will make a significant difference.

To return to my point, why was it worth it? My parents are not exactly rolling in the money now. Having started a career late, my mother is going to have to work until well past traditional retirement age; my father had a job more so than a career for most of my childhood, had several good years, but got hit by the more recent economic crisis, and just ageism, so his good years contributed to paying off earlier debt rather than building up retirement savings. In all likelihood, I'll be helping to support my parents in their old age. They can pay their bills, but my parents would probably be more financially secure if my mother had actually gotten a little less education, maybe something more focused on job training (eg. the Associates degree in something employable route). Here's why it was still worth it:

(i) As a girl, seeing my mother go back to school and pursue her education, and some serious, intellectually challenging education, was some invaluable role modeling for me. Not to mention sitting around as a family and all doing our homework together on the kitchen table.

(ii) Yeah, obtaining a bachelor's degree tends to improve family's economic situation, which is definitely very good (financial instability is a significant risk factor for depression and related ills), but that's not, to me, the most valuable thing about higher ed. Ideally, education helps you develop and come to better know yourself as a person. One has to be careful about particular schools and programs. I was just reading an article about how racialized students can become tracked toward incarceration in grade schools, for example. Finding a program and a college/university that will be supportive of your educational needs and goals is very important, and I think my mother's experience would have been not nearly as positive (for her or for the rest of the family) if she hadn't attended schools with strong support for non-traditional students, working class students (that's one of the advantages of state universities), and female students (my family is white, but throw in strong support for students from your ethnic/racial background or anything else applicable). (Are you getting this sort of acceptance and support within your program at USC, apart from the lack of adequate financial support? If not, definitely look into one of the other colleges suggested above!) But as it was, my mother learned many things about herself, increased her self-confidence, and re-evaluated her role in our family and in society. This was a little rough at times as my father also had to do some corresponding re-evaluation, but was ultimately good for him as well I think. We certainly ended up developing much better communication skills as a family, for example. Seeing my mother do this, accomplish this, was, more specifically, what made my mother an invaluable role model for me. It raised my expectations for what I was entitled to expect out of life. It's what got me to where I am today: a relatively fulfilled human being, and financially secure (enough that helping support my parents in their old age won't be an excessive burden, at least). And seeing my parents work out their changing roles was invaluable in helping me think fully about what I'm entitled to expect from a partner in a relationship. In short, my mother's pursuit of higher ed has helped to make me a better person, a happier person, and a person who is able to confidently and effectively stick up for myself and others.

(ii) The experience that my mother gained in navigating bureaucracies and such has enabled her to give me much helpful advice that made my own path through higher ed, following her, much easier.

(iv) My mother already had "cultural capital" beyond our family's economic status when I was a little tyke, which helped a lot for our early childhood education. The additional cultural knowledge that all of us in my family picked up as my mother progressed through her education has helped me to be able to be accepted in a variety of socio-economic contexts, as well. The US is highly class-stratified despite myths to the contrary, and the cultural norms that you pick up at a private college/university are definitely upper middle class, so this has been helpful for me in obtaining jobs and such. The fact that my parents never turned their backs on their working class roots, instilled an understanding of class dynamics and a class consciousness in me (though perhaps by accident more than intent), and that I remember at least a part of that from my childhood (I was way too young to remember when we were on food stamps in my toddlerhood, but remember some cultural impressions from that time), has given me a context for understanding why I haven't always felt like I "belonged" despite being able to pass just fine as upper middle class in non-economic respects (and nowadays economically as well), and has helped me stay grounded and keep my sanity and sense of self through my education. Being able to talk about class issues in education with my mother has been really helpful as well. (I can recommend readings on this topic; memail me if you're interested.)


In other advice that also doesn't answer your question but may(?) be helpful mental-health wise: you do have a lot of immediate challenges for your family. Maybe taking a semester or a year off would help. I definitely second the comments recommending that you look into some other programs that would be more supportive of non-traditional students. Your current situational difficulties are absolutely not the end of the world for your scholarship prospects and your college education, however. Talk with your campus counseling center and make sure you can get Ws instead of Fs in classes that have been affected by your living situation so far. If/when you apply to other colleges, you will have a very compelling application essay to write about your experiences so far. Definitely include an explanatory note with your USC transcript if you do apply elsewhere, or have to apply for other scholarships. Eg. something along the lines of the following in a cover letter: "I feel that my grades this past [year] do not adequately reflect my academic potential. I was facing a number of very serious non-academic challenges. [briefly describe in two or three sentences]. My performance at [community college] is more typical of my work output and academic potential. [some closing sentence indicating that they should ask you for more information (eg. supporting documentation)]." Your immediate situation is, well, it's high pressure from a needing for find housing and food standpoint, but it's not as high pressure from your prospects for future education standpoint. And I believe that you are doing the right thing for your children!
posted by sockpuppet13 at 11:52 PM on November 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

I am so incredibly sorry this has happened to your family. Please take others advice and go public with your story.
posted by ohmansocute at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2012

Maybe you can raise funds by posting your situation on Wish Upon a Hero.
posted by Dansaman at 12:20 PM on November 9, 2012

Response by poster: FROM THE OP:

I'm so sorry, you guys, I haven't had the ability to get to a computer and reply for some time now, and for that I sincerely apologize because so many of you took the time out of your day to reply to me and my story, trying to help me. I sincerely feel like a rude fool for not working harder to get to a library or somewhere that could have provided me the ability to use a computer. I hope you can all understand and forgive me.

I haven't even read everything yet, but I will finish as soon as I finish this post, I just wanted to jump in and say something, first of all because it has been so long since I've been able to get to a computer and reply, and secondly because there are SO MANY responses I want to make sure I remember everything I wanted to say just in response to what I've read so far!!

So keeping in mind that I haven't quite finished reading the responses, here goes:

I am definitely willing to go public with my identity, and everything I have said is, of course, true. In fact, it gets worse... there is someone at USC's Student Union, the liasons between the school/school's officials and the students themselves..she's the one who has been dispatched to "deal with me" when I've brought my situation to the school's attention on numerous occasions, seeking some kind of assistance.. anyway, this particular USC employee has actually called Child Protective Services on me about three or four times when I was trying to seek help for my family, and she seems to also want me to get kicked out of school.

As far as contacting alumni myself, I sent an email about my situation back in March to my hometown region's alumni leaders who were holding an annual "Scend Off" but I simply never heard anything back. For all I know they didn't even receive the email, I have no idea.

I am now officially failing my classes for this semester (I haven't been attending and really haven't been able to... aside from smelling terrible, I am in appointments all day every day as I am jumping through hundreds of hoops trying to get into some kind of transitional housing program, or the like. On a possibly very positive note, I have a job interview in a few days that could literally turn EVERYTHING around for us, and provide my family with a home, but I don't know anyone within the company I'm interviewing at, and I really wish I could meet someone or do anything at all else that might help me land this job, which would also, instantly, house my family!!!

I'm also worried that I don't have nice enough interview clothes, since my suits are locked up in storage-- and unfortunately, not in a way that I can get to them... We were unable to pay the storage bill, so we are now locked out of the unit. The clothes I have been cycling through in my car-trunk-closet aren't nice enough for an interview of this magnitude... but, I digress.

Once again, thank you all for taking the time to read my story and offer your thoughtful advice. I'm so very appreciative to all of you. I came out here with a 4.0 GPA, turning down an Ivy League school to do so, and while I have to say, if I'm being honest, as of late there hasn't been a light at the end of my tunnel.... there have been a lot of very sad days, increasingly bleak, troubling days, but I have the tools to turn everything around. I'm smart, I have potential, I have experience and passion, and even though lately it can be a difficult task, I am still holding out hope that I will solve my family's housing problem (maybe, hopefully, by somehow getting this incredible job..?), get my degree, and establish myself in a lucrative and at least mildly enjoyable career so I can take proper care of my beautiful children.

Once again, thank you all.
posted by chasethecarrot at 2:54 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

A. Why haven't you taken out a student loan?
B. Why haven't you withdrawn from classes if you were unable to attend?
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:47 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

It may be good for you to go back to school, but a higher priority has to be a home for your children. I am sorry. I don't mean to make you feel guilty, that is not my intention, but I feel you are so overwhelmed that it is hard for you to think clearly about your situation.

After you obtain housing for your kids THEN sit down and make a plan for your future, and yes, that should include your education. But you cannot put your well being and your children's well being on hold till then. That isn't how it works. I sympathize because my daughter is a single parent of two beautiful children, she too is intelligent, she too is a hard worker, but she knows that having a roof over their heads and food for them outranks everything else. School will still be there.

Perhaps you need someone-a social worker perhaps? -who can sit down with you and help you lay out priorities in order. That way you can set your goals, and yes, get where you need to go. Where you are going now is NOT that way.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:31 AM on November 21, 2012

Response by poster: FROM THE OP:

To answer these two new replies first: I have taken out student loans... the thing is that the school says they won't factor in my family situation when calculating my financial aid package (including loans). I get, in loans, about $700/month to pay for rent, because that is the amount they allot for a single student, and they don't change that amount even if you're not a single student.. I don't quite understand it, especially since this is loan money we're talking about, as in MY money, that IIII have to pay back, but that's how it's done. And in reality, I've used that allotment to pay my car payment/insurance monthly. If I hadn't, we wouln't even have a car to live in right now...
I haven't withdrawn from classes yet because I simply don't know what to do. This is it for me. This is a BIG BAD. This was my "probation semester" and since I didn't do any better than last semester, I'm kicked out now... At least, I will officially be kicked out when I withdraw (actually, the formal withdrawal date just passed a few days ago, but you get the idea)... I'm just not in any particular hurry to hear the "okay, that's it, you're done, GOODBYE!" that's coming. This is the extremely depressing end to a very hard-fought chapter in my life. I'm pretty distressed about it.
But obtaining some sort of housing for my children is why I haven't been at all focused on school lately. It is my absolute top priority to take care of them, and as I mentioned in my last post, the best way I've seen fit to do that as of late has been to go to all of these meetings and appointments at all of these organizations and businesses that provide any kind of services to the homeless, in the effort to try to get some help and get my kids' basic needs taken care of, as well as doing my best to fight for jobs that include housing. That's just where I'm at right now; survival mode. College, how I've missed thee, but alas we are in sheer survival mode for the time being...
posted by chasethecarrot at 9:35 AM on November 21, 2012

Response by poster: FROM THE OP:

*Trying to find some semblance of order in responding here; here goes:*

Yes, we are receiving food stamps.

No, none of us are vets.

I actually did some research about entering the army recently, but I'm actually disabled (the county considers me disabled, anyway. I still work 40+ hour work weeks when I'm employed, and I don't receive any kind of disability benefits or anything, but I do take medication daily and am not eligible to join the army, and my husband is in the same boat, unfortunately).

I talk to the lovely people at 211 on almost a daily basis... they probably know me by name now, seriously! They're great people with a lot of great resources for a lot of things, but with all of the shelters full to capacity and my family already receiving county benefits, there's not much else they can do. But for anyone else in my position, 211 can help you find places to shower and even a couple of Skid Row shelters where you can do laundry (although they NEVER "recommend" a family to go down to Skid Row, even if it's just to do laundry), as well as food banks and free medical clinics for children; this is why I've been calling a lot lately...

The Catholic charities have been unable to help us. The numbers I called were answered by very kind people who gave me some different phone numbers to try, also, unfortunately, to no avail, but I'm sure their resources are just tapped out. There are a lot of people in need.

Yes, my advisor knows about my situation. Three of them, actually. The Dean of Students knows. The Financial Aid department, in its freakin' entirety (excuse my almost-French...), and most notably, the Dean of Financial Aid knows. The PRESIDENT of the school knows. There was a teacher who commented about the homeless situation in Los Angeles in, I believe, the L.A. Times, so I even contacted him, and he asked if he could pass my information on to some students, which I told him was okay... that was about nine months ago. Never heard a thing. None of these people have any interest in my situation, and in fact, although this most likely comes across as conspiracy theory with a smattering of bitterness, the majority of them seem to want me to GO AWAY. I'm obviously nothing more than an inconvenience to them, and it really does seem as though they would be most satisfied if I would just drop off the face of the earth. While that isn't my plan, now that I have successfully flunked out I suppose they've practically gotten their wish. Ick :(
And yes, I have documentation of my dealings with people at the school.

Oh, and I cannot get an emergency loan. I tried to get an emergency loan from SC, and I'm not going to go into great detail here but let's just say the school knows I'm poor and as a result they "deeply question my ability to pay back an emergency loan." Even my old community college had emergency loans...

In any case, once again I have to thank you all, as there are a million amazing pieces of advice here. I don't know if I should bother going to the Greek organizations, or anyone else at the school, because at this point I'm screwed academically. But if you guys think I'm wrong about that, I'd love to hear any ideas as to what I could possibly do about my future in higher education. I had already contacted a lot of SC's charitable organizations about my family's situation by about February of this year and they were unable to help us, and I have also brought our plight before the Counseling Services. Unfortunately, as things stand right now, in our financial situation which doesn't include any amount of money in the distance that could ever be enough to possibly house us, the only out I currently see is getting a job and evaluating the possibilities once that is accomplished. Getting a job while homeless is MUCH easier said than done, but everything is going to be dependent on the amount of money I can earn, or the bonuses a job includes (I'm trying for a job that includes housing; that would obviously be ideal). I don't know what else to do, besides "going public," but I'm afraid at this point, since I've flunked out now, that wouldn't even do any good... although I would love to be wrong about that...
And my time is up. I will check back later to see if anyone has replied. Thank you all again.
posted by chasethecarrot at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2012

Sounds like it's time to get the hell out of LA.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:49 AM on November 21, 2012

You're almost certainly not as screwed academically as you think you are right now. What are you-- like three semesters from a BA or BS in a scientific field? If you can get yourself into a stable situation, you can finish those three semesters somewhere. It sounds like you are quite confident about being able to complete very demanding coursework as long as you have some measure of security. You have two years of good grades-- we assume-- in subjects that can be judged objectively, and a perfectly good explanation for what happened at USC. Just look at the Metafilter threads devoted to student loan debt; it is no secret that colleges stick students with unrealistic financial scenarios, and you are a student with a family, and USC is about the most expensive place you could have gone.

If USC knew in depth about your situation when they accepted you, yeah I think they have wasted your time and that sucks, but it's one wasted year; your life isn't ruined. I agree with mr_roboto; cut your losses and get out of there.
posted by BibiRose at 12:31 PM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: FROM THE OP:
We don't have anywhere else to go. Back "home" only includes one family member and some friends, none with the abiilty to house us, and the weather there would make it physically dangerous to attempt sleeping in a car.
And I still believe that somehow, some way, we can pull ourselves out of this. And maybe I can even go back to school..

The thing about that is that I was only able to transfer from my community college to a 4 year in the first place because of the amazing scholarships I was offered. I turned down Columbia and opted for USC, never even applying for the local state school, because after extensive research I discovered that even maxing out Pell Grants and student loans AND working at least half time, I couldn't even quite cover the state school's tuition and fees, much less living expenses.

I always knew there was a chance I wouldn't be able to pull this off. But I wouldn't even have been able to try in my hometown.

I'm really not ready to say I gave it a try but failed, and give up, but I don't know where I can possibly go from here. I earned scholarship opportunities by having a 4.0 GPA at my community college and being a student government and foundation leader. After this disasterous year I can't see myself applying to any new schools with any hope of qualifying for a scholarship. I also really don't like the idea of having to uproot my family again. You might think that wouldn't be an issue since we're homeless, but it's still learning a whole new area, my kids changing schools, making new friends, etc.

But since we are still homeless, housing my family is my primary concern; thinking about school has to wait for now. I recently learned about a program for homeless families through DPSS that, as I understand it, provides families up to 120 days in a shelter. I will definitely post more information about this as soon as I get it, for future readers that may need the information.
posted by chasethecarrot at 12:58 PM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: Also, yes USC knew in-depth about my situation when they accepted me (I told my story in-depth in my admission essays), but the admissions people aren't legally (I believe) allowed to factor in socio-economic factors when deciding whether or not to accept an applicant. So it's not entirely their fault that this happened or anything. I just honestly feel like it's absolutely ridiculous that they DO know about it and aren't doing anything NOW, now that they've brought me out here. They're willing to invest $40,000 a year on my tuition, but they won't help me out with two or three grand so I can reasonably afford a semester of housing in Los Angeles?? I already take out loans to cover the existing housing fund I have (or they're covering my housing fund and I'm taking out loans to cover a few grand of the tuition costs as well as student health insurance, etc. etc.- however you want to look at it), so IMO the real problem is just the way the financial aid department calculates the awards. There should be some kind of different scale for students with families, or maybe all independent students, or there should be some kind of scholarship fund for the extremely poor...or something. I believe there are alumni members that would get behind me on this, as well. I wouldn't mind being the one to start such a scholarship foundation at USC, as I deeply feel that addressing the needs of students with families and extremely poor students are things that USC needs to deal with in order to be both more competitive and more compassionate as a whole.
posted by chasethecarrot at 1:19 PM on November 23, 2012

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