Where is the safety net for a low-income 53-year-old?
March 22, 2013 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Low-income housing exists, obviously, for, e.g., a mother of four children with any kind of job. But I'm a man, 53, no kids, unmarried, and work independent contractor jobs.

My gross income last year was about $15K. Currently I have a situation where I pay $175 + $250 utilities, plus yardwork -- it's a shared house with my on-again, off-again girlfriend. We broke up. She pays more to the owner than I do but may sort of need me since she needs to save $ herself, plus is 54. Since the owner wants to sell (though he's a procrastinator and the house condition kinda sucks), plus we're "broken up," she may move back to her home state at some point. I'm wondering if there is any option for me to move out when the time COMES. Many unknowns with the aging owner but he'd like us here. We probably don't qualify for buying the current house. So -- me: worse comes to worse (or better?), a trailer home or something? Gov't program? I need to be in a major city like D.C. where I have work at four different places, built up over years and worth keeping, the only job I'm suited for. And, need to be near public transpo, which in this area means the $350 I could reasonably spend on rent would be laughed out of the poorhouse support club, were there such a thing... Will I have to slip thru the cracks and buy a car to live in?
posted by noelpratt2nd to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are some suggestions in this prior AskMe.

My comment in that thread mentions this, but most housing programs-- and, indeed, most social assistance programs, are explicitly forbidden from favoring or discriminating clients based on gender or family composition. The fact that you're a man doesn't make you less eligible for assistance.

There are some forms of help that only available to households with children (WIC, TANF, etc), but the primary barrier is going to be that there are very (very very very) many more people who need help than there is funding to assist.
posted by Kpele at 2:49 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to this, in DC, you're eligible for housing assistance, based on your income. The application for assistance is also on that site.
posted by xingcat at 2:58 PM on March 22, 2013

The only thing to focus on here is: "My gross income last year was about $15K." You are eligible for assistance. Be aware that assistance can take time to get set up. Once you have assistance it may take some time to find suitable housing. Apply now. Today.

Don't wait for your housing situation to collapse. (She moves? He sells?) Get moving on that now so you aren't homeless when your current housing situation disintegrates.
posted by 26.2 at 3:29 PM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another reason to act now: from xingcat's linked website: "Effective April 12, 2013, DCHA is suspending new enrollment to the waiting list".
posted by feral_goldfish at 3:35 PM on March 22, 2013

You may also want to look into housing options in other nearby areas - call their housing authorities too. Though they may only be able to help residents of those areas. Google housing nonprofits in the DC area in addition to the housing authority
posted by fieldtrip at 3:38 PM on March 22, 2013

Sadly, the DCHA list is hardly worth getting on. I would add your name to it, but it generally takes years to get to the top of the list. There are other project-based public housing options you should look into -- they each have their own list. And look in MD and VA too. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless might be able to give you ideas.

I think you might find a tiny room in a group house for $350/month, especially if you offered to take on a bigger share of the household chores.
posted by zahava at 8:36 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your best available option may be a federally-subsidized privately-owned apartment (via HUD). They have income guidelines and either set rent scales by a chart or by a percentage of income (e.g. 30% is what a family member of mine pays). One place to look for these is publichousing.com (Washington listings), although you'll have to do the legwork yourself in finding a place you'd be eligible for. Note that this is not the same thing as "housing assistance" where you get a voucher -- the private landlord is getting tax credits for providing this type of housing and they manage it largely outside of agency processes. They may have entire buildings for low-income tenants, or simply offer a percentage of their units under the program.
posted by dhartung at 3:04 AM on March 23, 2013

Place a call to the United Way. Dial 211 from your phone and they'll be able to update you about any kind of assistance in your county. They'll be able to advise you on the housing issue (or point you to someone who can) and also tell you where you can apply for food stamps and other assistance you might qualify for.

Good luck :).
posted by youandiandaflame at 5:56 AM on March 23, 2013

Keep looking on craigslist and other want ads places for live-in situations that only require yard work or whatever. They are rare,but they do exist. A friend had a small free apartment as the caretaker of a church in another city. Another friend had a garage apartment as the overnight person for a very fit elderly man- his family just wanted somebody on the property in case.

Good luck.
posted by mareli at 2:22 PM on March 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, all of you. I just got back to this site after being away all day. But I will check some things out. I don't have a recent tax return. Most places will look at the 10K in my bank acct., which may be a problem. But then they should also look at the uncertainty of my job as an actor for medical students and occasional freelance copyediting. That and the fact that I have no car or health insurance.
Back later -- thanks again! -N.
posted by noelpratt2nd at 2:59 PM on March 23, 2013

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