We're providing emergency temporary housing. What have we missed?
April 14, 2014 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Starting in two weeks, we are providing emergency temporary housing in our basement for a 19-year old who was kicked out of his home. What do we need to set up / what haven't we thought about yet?

My wife and I responded to a plea on a local LGBT support group mailing list, requesting assistance for a 19-year-old non-gender-conforming youth who abruptly became homeless last week after being kicked out of his house by his parents (apparently, for non-gender-conformity). He stayed for a night with a friend in a group home, but as he is over 18 he is ineligible for longer-term assistance there.

After we made sure his short-term, immediate needs were taken care of, we agreed to take him on for approximately a month, starting in about two weeks and ending no later than the end of May, when he graduates from a professional certificate program.

We have room in our house -- we have a finished "English basement" with its own entrance around back. There's a full bath and a microwave and a fridge and freezer there, too. The basement area is currently used by me as a home office and the kids as a (very cluttered) playroom.

We plan on re-keying the lock to the back porch and installing a lock on the basement door. We need (sporadic) access to the basement to get to the utility room and the fridge. We plan on extending a fairly open invitation to the kid to join us for meals and to use our laundry machine.

We have four kids, oldest is 11 years old. I'm trans and have been full-time for two years, and the kids have lots of experience around gender-nonconforming people besides me.

My wife gave the kid a ride a few days ago, and he struck her as polite and driven (he was putting himself through the certificate program). Also, the first thing she did before she met him was to clarify what name and pronouns he wanted us to use. Our house is not very accessible via public transportation, and my wife has already discussed how rides to/from the nearest bus stop might work into our schedule (short answer: only with difficulty).

YANML and I'm not looking for legal advice about landlord/tenant law. But practical advice along the lines of, "Hey, have you thought about ____" would be helpful.
posted by QuantumMeruit to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a bicycle he could use to get around/to the bus stop?
posted by mikepop at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, have you thought about a smoke alarm for the basement? Have you thought about rules for the lodger (which is what I would call this young person, rent situation aside)? I'd want a guest of that age and duration to sign an agreement stating he agrees to the house rules, which might include no loud music after 8, no guests after 10, no overnight guests, etc. I'd couple this with a bunch of positive things like having him up for dinner X nights a week, being available to help him with job hunting and learning to budget, etc.

PS: Thank you for doing this.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:53 PM on April 14, 2014 [15 favorites]

He may need a lot more than a separate apartment and a place to stay. At only 19, and with his parents' rejection, consider that he may need emotional support and want to talk with you. He may also need your help apartment-hunting and learning how to apply for an apt (he was living with parents before, and this is someone parents usually help with the first time someone moves out), help learning how to do laundry, etc.

Offer him use of your laundry soap, etc. so he doesn't have to buy that stuff for just one month (shampoo? soap? toothpaste? I don't know if he was able to take this stuff with him). Was he able to take clothing with him? Does he need some extra shirts and boxers?

He may not have much money and may need you to help feed him breakfast and lunch, not just dinner (if you can afford it, buy him cheap canned stuff and ramen and cereal and milk).

Set ground rules about friends staying late/staying the night, smoking and drinking (cigarettes outside only and throw away the butts, no pot or alcohol here in your house, etc.).
posted by amaire at 12:55 PM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

You are good people.

Not to jump to conclusions, but what happens at the end of May, when he graduates and is supposed to move out, but can't? It usually takes folks a bit of time to find employment after finishing a program. Will you extend that date? Even if you don't bring that up with him yet, talk to your partner about how you realistically see that playing out. Because from my perspective, there's no way he's going to be in a position to move until....July? August? It takes time to build up enough resources to move out into your own place (security deposit, rent, utilities, etc.) My guess is it'll be hard for you to kick him out (for very valid reasons!) but that could end up being a frustrating situation. You can say you'll deal with it when the time comes, but just be prepared for this lasting much longer than you initially intended.

Other things to consider:
- rules about having friends over
- overnight guests or other friends sharing the place
- rules about noise/music
- could you find a bike for him to have or borrow? Ask your friends or neighborhood.
- computer access
- odd jobs for spending money
- smoking/drinking etc. doesn't have to be verboten depending on your perspective, but make it clear and not wishy-washy
- making a plan together for finding a job, so you can see him putting in the effort as the time comes

Talk to your social circle. Set up a wishlist with things you need. My guess is they will want to help in concrete ways: bedding, or help lining up an apartment when the time comes, or rides, etc. I know that if a friend was offering their house to a kid like this, I'd be overjoyed to provide other concrete, material aid in some way, whether through buying actual, giving you some cash to deal with issues, or giving my time to help.

Keep us posted. I'd totally pitch in to help if you had an Amazon wishlist or some other easy way for me to contribute from afar.
posted by barnone at 12:59 PM on April 14, 2014 [13 favorites]

If this person reads then a good reading light by the bed would be great.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:08 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

A therapist! He will need more than just you and your wife's support.

House rules- you have young children around. They do not need to walk in on him doing something that they are too young to be exposed to. Make certain that they understand that the basement is off limits to them while you have a guest and remind your guest to use discretion.

An air filter/white noise maker. He may not wish to hear your kids walking from the t.v. to the kitchen.

A chore list. Allow him the dignity of earning his keep.
posted by myselfasme at 1:08 PM on April 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Offer to provide a good reference for future housing prospects. Even if they don't pay rent, you are technically acting as a landlord. You can vouch that they treated the place with respect, cleaned often, left the place in good condition, etc. (mind you, if they actually do these things!)
posted by spinifex23 at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

I did something like this once and only once, in part because I got burned by the experience.

I offered a young welfare mom the option of her and her child moving in with us. We gave her the spare bedroom. Her boyfriend also moved in with us, which I don't think was what we originally offered. While we were away, she told her roommates -- who were being evicted with her -- they could store their personal possessions in our garage. My husband was career army and she would go out at night without telling us where she was and we would get phone calls at like 1am, waking up my husband who needed to get up in a few hours. She felt it was unreasonable for us to expect to be told where she was or for us to ask that she tell her friends to not call after a certain hour.

Ultimately, we had to tell her "Tell your friends to come get their crap out of our garage. This is not your house to do with as you wish." We helped the boyfriend enlist in the army and call his creditors and arrange a hold on some of the payments until he was in basic training and getting a paycheck. She turned up pregnant yet again (this was pregnancy number three by three different men -- her first baby had been given up for adoption). At that point, her mother offered to take her back in. Weeks went by and she never came to get her own crap out of our house and one weekend my husband and a neighbor with a truck loaded her stuff up into the back of the truck and dumped it at her mom's house just to get it out of our house.

So I will suggest you assume you may be taking on a worst case scenario of someone with very poor boundaries, not some "nice young man" just "down on his luck." With the parents kicking him to the curb, you should assume they probably were never great parents to begin with.

I agree with previous remarks that you should put some things in writing ahead of time and make him sign it. Put some emphasis on what can't be done, not just what can be done. Both are helpful information but people who have known nothing but bad relationships often just don't know the standard social expectations one might assume that "everyone" knows.

If you have books with practical information about money management, job hunting and the like, you might try making a little library downstairs. Don't require him to read it but do make it available.

Don't leave anything downstairs that you would really have a big problem with having it stolen or damaged. Just assume the worst, not about his character but about his upbringing, if that makes any sense.

Do not be surprised if he has no idea how to cook, clean, do laundry, and other basic self care. You might need to lend a hand with that stuff just to protect your house.
posted by Michele in California at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

Set up house rules, and a strong suggestion ("mandatory?") to attend a weekly dinner. It may seem a bit unnecessary at this point, but it is better to be very clear of what you find acceptable and unacceptable as far as music, TV, friends over, curfew, eating of shared food, etc. and to have an established expectation of communication while he is sharing your home. The dinner should nice from his standpoint, but it will also help you to get a feel for how he's doing, and give a venue to share your experience and communicate any issues either of you have with the living situation.

You don't want to get involved in a slippery slope of any kind, both for your sanity and his.

It's better to have something written, understood and agreed to by both parties when there is no possibility of preexisting rancor, any uncertainty on how to approach a situation, or any basis for a "you're just being passive aggressive about X" argument.

Not to say you should draw up a 20 page lease, but just a simple set of house rules (no more than what will fit on a standard piece of paper) which are fair and clearly understood.

A simple set of rules will lay out a general feel for him to what you will be OK with and what you won't be, and will also bullet point the serious stuff (No coming upstairs unannounced, ask before taking food, no booze/drugs, etc.). You should also be very clear on the Move Out date. You can adjust this later if you and him agree on it, and arguably it isn't legally binding, but it's better to be clear on a move out date, and change your mind to his benefit if need be, than to be unsure of how to ask him to leave.

I used to manage a halfway house, and I've seen things deteriorate into shit storms of resentment, anger, and passive aggressiveness simply due to lack of communication and unwillingness for people to approach things with honesty and disclosure.

I've seen firsthand one housemate offering to help out a recent arrival at the house, so he made available his stores of food and toiletries. Within three weeks, as the manager, I was embroiled in mediation to prevent possible violence and childish passive aggressive attacks (peeing in orange juice containers and the like), as one felt that the other had reneged on his offering of "help" and was kicking him while he was down, and the other was angry that his meat, specialty drinks and expensive hair care items had vanished and he was being taken advantage of. These were both smart, good, caring individuals, but a serious lack of communication and different interpretations of what the intended "help" was, created serious problems for the whole house.

Lastly, regardless of his current issues and possibly life-enforced wisdom... Remember he's 19. He can be perfectly intelligent, wise, and worldly about a great deal of many things, and totally baffle you with his occasional earnestness in not understanding why you are that upset he parked on the lawn and put his sneakers in the dryer at 3:30 AM. (More lessons I picked up from my stint as a house manager)
posted by Debaser626 at 1:16 PM on April 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

To reiterate barnone's advice, it can take a long time to find gainful employment, depending on what kind of program this is. Once he gets that job, he can't instantly move out. What if one month turns to six? You should be keeping up with how his job/apartment search is going. At the same time, he is an adult so I wouldn't baby him or try to be his parents - you can be a support system and still have some boundaries. You want to help him be independent.

Also, firm rules. You have young children so regardless of how nice he seems, you need to be sure they are safe and comfortable in their own home. If they are home alone, is it okay for him to have friends over? What if those friends are a little rougher around the edges than you expected? Just stuff like that so everyone is on the same page and you don't find yourselves in awkward positions.
posted by Aranquis at 1:19 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

For making him feel welcome, an empty bookcase where he can put his stuff and a few lamps instead of just overhead lighting would be homey.

Also do you have wifi? Does the signal work well in the basement? I would check it and if it sucks down there, consider getting a repeater.mif he is going to be oing homework and job hunting, he will need Internet.
If you have a family computer, granting him use of that (with rules about downloading things, etc) would be nice.

Make expectations clear about how much you want him to help out around the house, clean his area, and babysit for your kids.

Are there walls between the area you need to use and the area that is his? I would imagine that privacy and boundaries would be important here even more than for a cisgendered teenager, and the less you and your kids walk in on him when he wants to be alone, the better.
Setting schedules and making sure everyone sticks to them is a good way to enforce this so that he knows that the kids aren't allowed down there after 6pm or that he wants to sleep undisturbed til 11 am on Sundays or whatever.
posted by rmless at 1:31 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing we've done in the past: set up an expectation that X amount of time is free (or at whatever discounted rate) but that rent goes up to (whatever rent we require) after X amount of time, so that the person has the choice of becoming a regular renter or moving out. As long as this is clearly laid out and revisted once or twice, it seems to help keep everyone on the same page. That way, if the person cant actually get a rental apartment by the end of the first month, they do have the option of staying; people who are reliable are ready to pay rent, people who are just looking to mooch* are encouraged to move out. I personally am usually ready to flex a little on the rent as long as they are serious about paying as much as they can.

*And I have known some dear, delightful people who needed a kick in the pants at one point or another.
posted by Frowner at 1:32 PM on April 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

A lot of maturity at his kind of juncture highly depends on the individual. Some of the horror stories in this thread could be way out of context for what you're going through. A mother on public assistance is not a troubled youth surrounded by troubled youths is not a young adult staying with a stable, established family.

You have to decide if you want to treat him like a friend, a child, or a tenant, and a lot of suggestions in here would be appropriate for one and wildly out of line for another.

(You mention putting a lock on the basement door--is this to keep him from coming up or you from going down? A difference as subtle as that can really reframe a situation)

Assuming you offered to help in response to a general plea (as opposed to him asking you specifically), give him as much autonomy as you can, and ask very little of him (especially relating to chores in parts of the house he isn't using). I'm not suggesting you let him disrespect your property or your family and rules about overnight guests and drug/alcohol use are perfectly in line, but let him practice setting his own boundaries and take care of his own needs.

In your position, I'd invite the kid to eat dinner with my family on a regular basis, but not feed him if he wasn't sitting at the table with us. I'd sooner give him a small allowance in cash than let him avail himself of the family food supplies.

Especially if the last month of his program has a lot of studying or project work, let his living situation be as stress-free and obligation-free as possible.

I agree that you should be looking past the end of May and have everyone be on the same page about what happens June 1, and if you can accommodate him for a bit longer (with more obligations w/r/t paying rent with cash or labor or whatever).
posted by itesser at 1:46 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's a good point - make sure that he knows how to handle financial stuff like a bank account, checking, etc.

Because I was in Honors classes in High School and got into a good University, everyone assumed I knew these things - because I'm smart, right? I didn't know any of it, because my parents wouldn't teach me, even when I asked.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:35 PM on April 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Twin Cities has a host home program for LGBT youth. You may want to see if they have suggestions for you.
posted by hoyland at 3:16 PM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Because I was in Honors classes in High School and got into a good University, everyone assumed I knew these things - because I'm smart, right? I didn't know any of it, because my parents wouldn't teach me, even when I asked.

I'll enthusiastically second this. A lot of teens and young adults are fairly sheltered from the common sense, day-to-day quotidian details of living an adult life on one's own, either because their parents have done everything for them, because they've been so focused on school for most of their lives, or because no one taught them. "How to Adult: an Introductory Course" was sadly not a thing that was offered at my high school or college, as much as I and my peers could have used it. I'm a fairly independent and private person who likes to handle my shit myself, but I really appreciated and relied on the support network I had in my family to help me with stuff like finding an apartment, moving, knowing what stuff to buy for a household, etc.

Make sure you're prepared to help out or offer resources on handling finances, finding a place to rent, dealing with transportation, etc. This is obviously a stressful, emotional experience for this kid already, and figuring out the details of building a life on his own could very well be totally overwhelming. You're doing a great thing for this kid, and it's amazingly generous and kind of you to offer him a place to stay, but remember that it might take a little more to help him get on his feet.
posted by yasaman at 5:01 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Marshall Brain has put online many chapters of his book The Teenager's Guide to the Real World.
posted by Sophont at 6:10 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your social circle may be able to provide all sorts of resources you may not be able to and will also be able to support you should things go south in any number of ways. Make sure you aren't doing this alone.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:43 AM on April 15, 2014

Also protect yourself. If you make him a tenant, he may have tenants rights at a rent of zero. Talk to a housing lawyer and draw up a paper baout what the nature of the relationship. Keep in mind if you rekey that space and give up access rights then from a legal perspective that may end up the boundaries of the tenancy.

Nthing the house rules - teenagers are fundamentally very childlike, so you need to spell out what is approriate. I personally would say: no smoking, no drinking (he is not of legal drinking age anyway), no friends i have not met, no friends after 9 pm, etc
posted by zia at 6:55 AM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

« Older Kickball Help Please   |   Looking for blogs of experiences learning English... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.