What assistance is available for a single mom in a difficult situation?
October 1, 2013 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I have a good friend who has gone through a very rough 16 year marriage/divorce - experiencing both verbal and physical abuse. She currently has four children living with her, 3 of them are under the age of 18, 1 is 19, and 1 infant grandchild. As a friend I would like to provide all the help and information that can be offered. But I have no idea were to start... She resides in Arizona - she has a minimum wage job and works around 30 hours a week. Her 17 year old son works part time at a fast food place. (Her ex-husband does not pay any child support). She said that she checked on housing assistance but that there was a one year waiting list (I have a feeling she really has not checked). And advice or links will be greatly appreciated...
posted by strongdad to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If her daughter is the mother of the grandchild, they should be eligible for some kind of WIC assistance (well, when there's not a shutdown, don't know how it is at the moment).

Her best place to start is a local women's shelter, in that they deal with similar scenarios constantly and will know what the local resources are. And they might also offer counseling for her and her kids, which, after a long abusive relationship, seems like a good idea.

I assume her kids are in school, they should be at least eligible for breakfast/lunch programs, and possibly some counseling; and then there are food banks.

Are you also in Arizona? It doesn't sound like you are close enough to do more than listen, though that is very valuable. I would encourage her to find as much local support as possible.

I am not clear on how many kids there are. 19-year old (with a baby?), 17-year-old, and one more? If they could work their schedules so that the 19 year old could work and there was someone to watch the baby (and the younger child out of school?), that might bring in more money. Also, daycares don't pay a lot, but they do let you have your kids with you; if the baby's mom can work in a daycare and have her baby there, she could bring in money that way. She could also do some in-home babysitting, perhaps.
posted by emjaybee at 10:23 AM on October 1, 2013

My recent answer about Kinship placement might be helpful, depending on the custody/caregiving situation with the one year old. Even if Kinship isn't the right match for this family, those organizations might be able to point your friend in the right direction for help. Parenting classes and family preservation are the key phrases she wants in addition to Kinship.

Bonus points because that answer was also specific to Arizona.

A one year waiting list for housing does not seem out of line with what's going on in this country.
posted by bilabial at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2013

If her ex-husband is the father of any of the minor children living with her, she should look into obtaining and enforcing an order for child support. If the parent of the grandchild lives with her, that parent should obtain child support from the other as well.

Here is a pamphlet from the AZ Department of Economic Security on obtaining and enforcing a child support order. She may be eligible for Legal Aid.
posted by mibo at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: First of all, the 19 year-old, if this is the parent of the grandchild, is eligible for assistance as well. So make sure that this child applies in tandem with the mother.

WIC and SNAP should be back in business as soon as the government is.

Here is a resource for Health-e-Arizona, where one can sign up for Nutritional and Medical assistance.

Section 8 is the usual housing assistance program.

Utility Assistance is also available.

Any school aged children should be getting free breakfast and lunch.

Then there's Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). This provides a monthly stipend for up to 36 months.

Has she been to court? Is there a support order in place? Then DES should be able to track down the father and shake him by the ankles. Ditto for the parent of the grandchild that does not live with her.

Applying for public assistance is a second job, but she's doing her family no favors by not doing it.

This is the safety net. It's there for her.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:29 AM on October 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

Food Assistance/nutrition assistance in Arizona from the AZ Department of Economic Security

It looks like there is a lot of other good information on various support subjects on the AZ Department of Economic Security web site as well.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:41 AM on October 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers so far - already a lot of things to research!

To answer some questions -

Yes, the 19 year old is the mother of the child, I will make sure she files as well...

Sadly, the 17 year old and 14 year old are not in school, the situation was so traumatic that she pulled them out of school entirely last year and wants to home school them (I advised against that).
The 10 year old is in school.

She has been to court for the divorce and the Ex is supposed to pay - but he is quite violent and she is worried of repercussions if she makes waves...
posted by strongdad at 10:51 AM on October 1, 2013

First, she can call 211 to find out more about community information and referral services.

WIC is on hold for the duration of the government shutdown, but SNAP is still available.

In my experience, there will definitely be a wait for any type of housing assistance. Your friend may need to be very flexible when it comes to where she is willing to relocate to shorten the wait. In my family's case, we were put on a state-wide list and informed that we would need to go wherever the housing was whenever the next available spot came up, which we did, but we still had to wait for almost two years before we were able to secure a place in the projects. Availability is also sometimes limited by the number of minor children in the family; i.e. she may have trouble finding low-rent/subsidized housing that will allow her 19-year-old child to reside with her. (If I would have stayed living at home past age 18, we would have had to give up some of our rent vouchers or move.)

Here is Arizona-specific information on Section 8 and subsidized and public housing. Here is a list of contacts for both low-rent and Section 8 housing in Arizona. Unfortunately, it looks like many of the waitlists for housing vouchers/Section 8 are closed outright (Phoenix, for example).

Here are a bunch of links from benefits.gov that might help.

* Arizona Cash Assistance Program (TANF/cash money): Apply here.
* Arizona Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps): Apply here.
* Association of Arizona Food Banks Find a food bank near you
* St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance
* Free meal sites in Arizona
* Arizona Emergency Food Programs (Soup Kitchens, Food Pantries, and Food Banks)
* The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) Locations

Health insurance:
* Health-e-Arizona
* Arizona Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid): The Arizona Medical Assistance Program provides medical services that are approved by Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Apply here.
* Arizona KidsCare: KidsCare is Arizona's health insurance for children under 19. Children ages 18 and younger that qualify can get medical, dental and vision services; all three services combined in one simple plan. Apply here.
* 2013 Health Care Resources for Arizona's Low Income and Uninsured Families [PDF]

See also: Arizona Self Help. "Arizona Self Help is a free and easy way to find out if your family can get help from 40 different health and human services programs."

This is a tough situation, and I wish you all the best of luck.
posted by divined by radio at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

The kids need to go back to school. There they can get meals, counseling and a good education. How is she home schooling while working? That is a recipe for disaster. (I know, you know this, but she needs to hear the words coming from your mouth.)

Does she have an order of protection against the ex? She needs one.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yes, both your friend and the 19-year-old should apply to any open waiting lists for housing assistance that they can-- though closed waiting lists are extremely common, and a 1-year wait is actually unusually low (my agency has a closed waitlist with a 3-4+ year wait for those already on the list, so...).

There are often some subsidized housing developments that have income limitations and below-market rents. These will probably not be as inexpensive as renting with Section 8 assistance or living in public housing (where your rental payment is tied to your income), but may have open and/or shorter waitlists. The HUD Low Rent Apartment Search divined by radio linked to above would be a place to start-- have her contact the property managers to ask about vacancies and waitlists, not the Housing Authority.
posted by Kpele at 12:00 PM on October 1, 2013

It isn't untrue that waiting lists can be that long-but just because they estimate a year doesn't mean it will turn out to be a year. Better to be on the list than not.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:05 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

She's probably exhausted. It's somewhat trite but sending her something like a starbucks coffee card with a note to "have a break on me" every couple of weeks would be a sweet gesture to remind her to care for herself too.

Going back to school would be way easier in terms of her free time but she may be in a crappy school district, or her kids have special needs, or other specific reasons. I took one of my kids out of school for a year to homeschool during a crisis and then put them back, and it was definitely the right choice.

If she is planning to keep homeschooling, you could help her connect to other homeschool groups in Arizona (list of organisations). Some will be religious, some secular. They often swap materials, organize activities for the kids and provide social support.

If she's struggling with the time needed for homeschooling, you could offer to help research online curriculums and figure out with the teenagers what would work best. That takes some serious time to research and then just organising materials and paperwork for homeschool as well. Frankly, paying for an online school is a lot easier, and fairly inexpensive.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:24 PM on October 1, 2013

Also, depending on schedules and online access, you could get some friends together to help tutor her kids. With email, skype and whiteboard apps, it's pretty easy to go over homework, revise essays etc from a distance. It's a time commitment and she and the kids may not want or need this, but I have always appreciated offers to help my kids with their schoolwork as taking a major burden off my shoulders.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:27 PM on October 1, 2013

Having run this race with friends in the past, I can suggest that she's avoiding help from any agency because every single one of them will force her to hit her ex up for child support and she figures she's better off living in a cold, damp cave and eating berries than pushing his buttons even a little bit more - he's probably leaving her alone solely because she hasn't sent the courts/police after him for support. An order of protection isn't worth the paper it's printed on as far as "protection" goes - it's only helpful for prosecution once the damage is done.

In Spokane, the waiting list for subsidized housing is quoted at three years and I know many people who don't even bother signing up because of that. I've been on it for seven years now and waited two and a half years to make it to the top of the list. In fact, they sent me a notice that my name had come up but I had just moved and the notice had a Do Not Forward stamp on it as most govt assistance letters do, so I didn't get the notice. About three months later I called Housing, just for the heck of it, to see where I was on the list; when they told me I'd been put back to the bottom because my letter was returned to them, I was devastated. After I fussed and explained what happened, they put me back on top and - at last - I got subsidized housing, which made life worth living again. But - here's the thing - if I had little kids, I would have had to produce either a husband (a second income), or a name of an ex husband or father of my children they could go after for support. That support would count as part of my income.

This lady should talk with someone from a Domestic Violence Women's network or shelter. Even if she chooses to remain as she is - without involving her ex's name in anything - they can still give her many tips to help her stay safe and engaged with community resources.

You're a good friend, and she needs you - thank you for helping her out.
posted by aryma at 1:17 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

And reading your later comments above, yes - she's keeping her head down, trying to stay out of his sight, trying to stay alive.

Very sad, but more common than you'd think.
posted by aryma at 1:21 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

"he's probably leaving her alone solely because she hasn't sent the courts/police after him for support. An order of protection isn't worth the paper it's printed on as far as "protection" goes - it's only helpful for prosecution once the damage is done."

I want to agree with this and recommend that you emphasize domestic violence shelters do have methods of working with women in this exact situation although she will need to express specifically she is a seeking a way to recieve services without involving the father because he is dangerous. I saw counsellors who didn't know how to do this at domestic violence shelters so she will need to be assertive about asking secifically for help getting TANF/insurance with an exemption from the state going after the father because it would put her families life in danger.

In my state there is a form you can fill out with a counselor in the event there is abuse that will permitt recieving services with no involvement of the father. When you're dealing with really scary people you're whole mindset adaps to not set them off, and as some abusers can be highly intuitive, it can be scary to do something that defies their wishes even in secret because the consequences if found out can be life or death. It's already humiliating enough for many people admitting you need assistance that renders you part of a class that is despised by a lot of people in this country. Letting her know that most good people will think more of her for going through he soul crushing pocess of seeking government assistance rather than less if she feels it would benefitt her kids. The services are there exactly for these situations and at some point she may be able to pay it forward. For now caring for her children's needs it's more important than that.

Counselling services would be really helpul and they should have some realy good tips for getting help without setting off the father. I'm glad you're being so thoughtful to your friend, there are a lot of good suggestions here. If she's concerned about public school she could also look up charter schools in her area and see if there's one that would meet her children's needs better.
posted by xarnop at 6:43 AM on October 3, 2013

By the way TANF can be so gruelling she might feel safer NOT using the resources, which really should be resepected too. Depending on the people involved the services can feel so punitive and scutinizing and blame oriented that it really harms the mother more than is worth the money. It's up to her whether she feels she can deal with this and whether the money will be worth it as an investment in her families welfare in relation to the cost. Sometimes having a counsellor and peer/community support letting her know she is doing the right thing and deservse the support can offset some of that damage. Just saying there are good reasons people want to avoid it, it's a good thing people would rather do for themselves, and there are lot's of services other than TANF if that one makes her uncomfortable.

Some women's shelters have financial assistance pograms through them to help women get back on their feet.
posted by xarnop at 6:57 AM on October 3, 2013

« Older Your Rocksmith is so unlike your Rock.   |   Canadian paid in US dollars- how can I maximize... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.