Life is Disappointing: NYC Apt edition
May 28, 2015 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Due to a series of unfortunate events I'm now homeless and lost all my savings. Looking for overall advice how to rent a room in NYC and survive.

I'm a 23 years old young woman homeless in NYC.

Basically, things happened in the last two months which caused me to lose a good portion of my support network. Currently I reside in a rented room in Queens, Flushing ($750/month) but I believe it's too much and I can't afford the rent for the next months (July). Meantime I managed to secure a loan from a bank, friends, and registered for college Fall '15 as a full-time student (2-3 more years until graduation).

I'm aware that I'm unemployed (I've tried to apply to NY Unemployment Insurance but don't qualify) and actively job-searching. I've joined various job boards (CL, Snagajob,, and SimplyHired) and my school (Baruch's STARR search). So far it's been disappointing but I still have hope. Keep in mind I've applied to most retail/chain stores in the area and more or less run out of places to apply as of now.

Although, I don't want to rule out small businesses but a reason I'm in this mess is directly connected to one and I'd just rather not.

Govt Assistance: I've applied to SNAP and SOAR but I'm still waiting to hear back from the latter. I've qualified for FAFSA/TAP but it won't be distributed until late summer.

Budget: $500-$600 by the local subway/public transportation (No greater than 2 hrs from Midtown). I don't have children or pets. Relatively safe area as I'm not very familiar with NYC as I lived in the suburbs just outside the city my entire life.

Space: I only have a mattress, card-table, 2x chairs, clothes, PC, and various small items. I don't mind roommates but right now I'm in a bad place and feeling cagey around people.

Location: It must be in NYC as my college is located there and I can't afford to transfer to another place right now.

Living Expenses: As of now I'm having a difficult time calculating my living expenses and any advice would be great. I've subbed to Something Awful's forums and reddit's personalfinance. I've also searched via AskMefi for related questions under IT/job/unemployment.

Phone bill: $30/month
Food: $100-$200/ SNAP
Transportation/Misc fee: ???

Family/Friends: I'm estranged from my immediate family due to legal issues/DV. My extended relatives are helpful-ish but refuse to provide any resources except for one aunt. Yes, I've pleaded with them but it's not going anywhere.

On the flipside I do have one friend who is willing to provide a one-shot loan and I'm trying to come up with a reasonable number for him soon.

Banks: I've managed to successfully open a savings account and credit card via Chase(Freedom Card) but I want to save that for emergencies.

Health: I have been diagnosed with Depression and seeking help via Counseling Center. I'm not addicted to any substances. I don't have any health issues other than the one I listed above.

Any advice for apt room/job hunting for a college student would be great. Thank you.

Side note: I can't return home as it's impossible not to mention it'd be life-threatening considering everything I went through in the last few months.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
$500/$600 for a place to yourself is going to be straight-up impossible. For a room, it'll be a really tough number to hit. For reference, I was paying $550 for a room in Gravesend five years ago and even then that was a sweetheart deal. If you want to live in Brooklyn, check out rooms for let in outer neighborhoods like Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay and so on. If you have friends or colleagues with ties to ethnic communities in NYC (and if you go to Baruch, I assume you do) reach out to them, as there's often cheap rooms circulating by word-of-mouth within the communities that never make it on Craigslist.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on May 28, 2015

Banks: I've managed to successfully open a savings account and credit card via Chase(Freedom Card) but I want to save that for emergencies.

Being homeless and having no money for basic life stuff is like the actual definition of an emergency. You are in an emergency. That is when you use the things you have been saving for an emergency.

You have a friend who's willing to provide a "reasonable" loan though you don't give a sense of what that means. That loan money should be put toward paying your rent for as long as possible, while you use your credit card to make sure bills and transport are paid. If you have SNAP then you're staying fed, yes?

If your friend can float you the money to stay in your current room for July and August, then that pretty much takes you to late summer, right? When your FAFSA kicks in?

You're in NYC. With a budget of 500-600 a month you WILL have roommates. You will probably have, like, multiple of them at a time. You may even have to have a roommate who shares your actual bedroom. This is just the facts of life for NYC. Adjust to that reality as quickly as you can because it's the surest way to avoid ending up in an emergency constantly.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:20 PM on May 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Ugh, this all sounds terrible.

Do you have to live in NYC for the summer or could you live outside of the city until Fall semester? Any chance your school aid package will also cover a dorm room or other housing once the semester starts? Could you get a job someplace that provides you with room and board for the summer (summer camp? farm work?) - a two birds/one stone kind of situation? Also what about the good aunt - would she let you move in, at least for a month or two?

If you have no income and no savings, $500-600 a month is a lot of money (while also being a very very small amount to be paying for rent). If you can avoid paying rent for even just a month or two, you'll be in much better shape. Don't worry too much about the student loans - in many cases you can get a retroactive deferral.
posted by mskyle at 1:22 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is there a chance that you can defer your school a year, and take a room further out of town while you look for a job?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:34 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, regarding your friend, the wisest thing might be to borrow the $750 to pay July's rent. I don't know what your living situation is like, but at $750/mo in Flushing, the living conditions would need to be quite bad for you to be getting genuinely ripped off. So long as you're unemployed, keeping the roof over your head that you have now is the best course of action as any future renting situation is going to require some kind of proof of income.
posted by griphus at 1:37 PM on May 28, 2015 [17 favorites]

So long as you're unemployed, keeping the roof over your head that you have now is the best course of action as any future renting situation is going to require some kind of proof of income.

Plus, moving itself costs money. Even if you can find a room for under $750 you'll still have to get your stuff there, or abandon it and buy new stuff. Don't gamble on finding a cheaper place if you can scrape up the rent for your current place.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:51 PM on May 28, 2015

Do you have to stay in the city during the summer? Maybe you can look for a WWOOF gig. My sister did that for a summer and the farm she worked on provided her with a place to stay, food, and a very small stipend. Here's the link to their website: It costs $40 to register, but you'll be able to search for farms close to NYC.

Also, are you eligible for work-study jobs during the school year? Sometimes it's easier to get one of those jobs rather than a regular job.
posted by Lingasol at 1:54 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

You can type, and presumably think. Have you signed up with any temp firms? They will require you to take a test of your knowledge of Word, Excel, etc.

Once you sign up, you call them every morning to remind them of your availability. Once you get a gig, do it as best as you possibly can: the first gig is what determines whether they'll bring you back. You need good references from the client.

Be friendly, reliable, and useful; show up on time; offer to do random tasks if you don't have enough work to fill your day.

I did a ton of temping over the years, and I learned something from every single gig I got. (Even if it was how much I hated data entry.)
posted by suelac at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing use the loan for rent, as much as you can get. You might be able to get a cheaper room off MetroNorth or LIRR. Also go talk to your school's student affairs department. As per googling just now, Baruch has a student emergency fund.
posted by bleep at 2:11 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you seen this recent thread?

I would also google "rapid rehousing NYC" as their may be emergency funds available to quickly house you.
posted by latkes at 2:12 PM on May 28, 2015

Do you have any experience babysitting/working with kids? Maybe you could find a live-in nanny position for the summer?

It looks like Baruch has a housing program, would you qualify for this once school starts?
posted by prettymightyflighty at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2015

I don't know how this works, so I'm just guessing, but could you take full-time summer classes at your school and then qualify to keep getting student loans? Or student housing? Have you talked to your school about other resources they might provide (mental health care, etc)?
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:37 PM on May 28, 2015

Hey, also - it's not exactly stacks of cash, but if you're unemployed you can always make a few bucks on Textbroker. You sign up and then choose assignments to write, which can be as short as a few sentences and as long as a couple pages. They pay a few cents a word.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Get a summer camp or similar job for the summer. There's tons in upstate NYC and northern New England. they will hire anyone who doesn't have a criminal record. housing and food would be paid for and you'd get a (tiny) salary until school starts
posted by genmonster at 2:59 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Post an ad on school boards (virtual or brick and mortar) for babysitting jobs. You might not be OK with a baby or toddler, but after that, it's basically question of keeping kids alive and happy till their parents get home. Faculty and other students need babysitters all the time. It can be quite remunerative.
posted by mmf at 3:08 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Please, please, please do not use that credit card. The interest rates are criminal and it would sooo easy for you to rack up huge amounts of debt that is VERY expensive to pay off.
posted by brookeb at 3:41 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

That's not worse than homelessness.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:53 PM on May 28, 2015 [15 favorites]

You need to start looking at Staten Island, and looking at roommates. A room to yourself in North Staten island is not impossible or even really unlikely at that price.
posted by corb at 3:54 PM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Try contacting The Door. You're a couple of years over their age limit, but they're a great organization with a ton of services and would probably point you in the right direction even if they can't help you directly.

Some other orgs serving homeless youth: Safe Horizon and Ali Forney Center (LGBTQ only). I don't know anything about the quality of the City Department of Youth and Community Development's drop-in centers, but they are here.

Furnished rooms are available on Craigslist, so you could sell most of your stuff and look for one of those.

Also, it sounds like you cobbled together enough money from others to put down a deposit for the fall semester. That's great, but if you can still withdraw the deposit without a penalty, it might be better to do that and use the money for your immediate expenses. Then you can work for a year until you're back on your feet financially and have a stable place to live.

While you probably feel like you just have to make it until your student loans kick in this fall (I've been in a similar situation), taking a year off and saving money will give you less stress and less debt in the long run. Good luck!
posted by amicus at 4:04 PM on May 28, 2015

Did your mother ever give you what she owed you of back pay from your old job where she withheld your money, back in March? If not and you manage to wrangle it out of her legally, this could be what saves you. I would get onto that pronto.
posted by Jubey at 5:04 PM on May 28, 2015

I don't know how you felt about the camp idea, but having no experience with childcare doesn't necessarily mean you couldn't work at a camp. You see all types coming through camps, and it's a place to stay, a fresh start for a few months and you can save a few thousand for the school year. Me mail me if you have questions about working at camps or ideas for how to apply.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:31 PM on May 28, 2015

I will defer to other posters for housing suggestions, but I am in Manhattan and willing to lend an ear if you need someone to vent to over a weekend breakfast or coffee (my treat!).

If not, I have many beauty products (some are quite high end) if you would like to try your hand at selling them on eBay or Amazon. I can also offer various personal hygiene items if you are interested-- saves from having to buy them!

Feel free to MeMail me if you are interested in either suggestion :)
posted by lovelygirl at 6:47 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Maybe try task rabbit for some spare money?
posted by miles at 7:14 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you are in a tough spot, and I would not offer this answer if you were not.

Have you considered leaving NYC? New York is ranked as the most expensive city in the US. Yes, amazing and wonderful in so many ways... but there are hundreds of towns in the country that would be easier on your slim budget.

Just to compare my frame of reference: Colorado, with NYC. Cost of living living here is near 50% of that in NYC. That means your $500 monthly rent will get you half of a shared apartment instead of slim pickings and many roommates/shared room. e.g. $400 will get you a room in this house in Fort Collins, CO - home of Colorado State University. Consistently voted one of the best places to live in the US.

OK... maybe not Colorado, but there are so many places to explore.

There are plenty of universities, in cool towns, to choose from across the country... so perhaps you can transfer.

Job markets are also less competitive, and possibly better, in many smaller cities.

I'll add, it didn't seem to me you had strong family ties in NYC, so why not explore.

So.... If I were giving flat out advice (I have a daughter, and this is what I'd say):

1. Leave NYC, find a city you can afford.
2. Establish yourself - ie. job, home
3. Then start school. Not before you've completed #2.
4. Move back to NYC if you want when you have your degree.

You are way young... 23 is beautifully young. You have time. Perhaps college can wait until you get yourself stable, and maybe then, you won't need as much aid/debt to get it done.

And... stay on getting help for your depression. It's a tough nut to crack and makes all this harder.

Wishing you well.
posted by ecorrocio at 7:46 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

OP's situation is so very temporary that I think any advice to ditch school and move cross-country right now is irresponsible. If she can hold on for two or three months she will be stable and secure for another year with the loans, and she can use that time to consider transferring. Moving is expensive and stressful in any circumstance; moving across the country to a place with no job, no apartment, no money and no support network seems like an absolutely awful idea, regardless of the cost of living.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:02 PM on May 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

showbiz_liz: OP's situation is so very temporary that I think any advice to ditch school and move cross-country right now is irresponsible.

Well, I put it out there as an option, and I think the OP can be the judge of whether or not its good advice. She states she's considered it, so it's not too far out. And if she's truly in danger of homelessness, it might be a way to make it all work. People move to new towns all the time. Also, I never said move across the country-- plenty of spots around NY.

If she can hold on for two or three months she will be stable and secure for another year with the loans

"With the loans" -- I'm not sure it's a great idea for a 23 year old to rack up debt. Again... Up to her. I'm only positing an option.
posted by ecorrocio at 10:17 PM on May 28, 2015

"With the loans" -- I'm not sure it's a great idea for a 23 year old to rack up debt.

We all have it now - almost every 20something I know has college debt that they will be paying off for a decade or more. The only ones who don't have parents who were able and willing to pay for their college. Yes, it's fucked up, but it's also 'normal' now, and for someone with zero family support it may be the one and only path to a middle-class future. It's a travesty, but this is the system we and she have to work within.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:29 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ask if you would be eligible for SEEK at Baruch. I really don't know how students join the program, but it exists to identify populations of students who might not make it through college without extra help (first-gen college students, etc, and I'd imagine that homeless students might also fit that profile). They get waived tuition, extra counseling, and priority registration. And please keep working with the counseling center. They're a great resource, and very plugged into the network of other resources on campus.

And heck, if you need just a hug, pm me and I'll tell you the office I work in.
posted by Liesl at 4:06 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

There are a few positions at a summer residential camp where employees don't necessarily work directly with campers-- I'm thinking office staff/ camp cook.

There are also amusement parks with employee housing (Disney World and Cedar Point are two that I know of).

The advantage of baby/pet/ house sitting is that you don't have to wait a few weeks for your paycheck to arrive.

Have you sat down (recently) with someone from the financial aid office to discuss your situation? In the best of circumstances, financial aid is confusing. There are certainly federal loans out there that do not require payment while you are in school. It may be possible to defer payments on your current loan. In addition, you should confirm when loans will be dispersed for the fall semester.

It took me a while to figure out that at my college, federal work study employers started the hiring process in the summer for fall positions. If there are any particular work study positions that you are eyeing (say the library/ campus dining) then go in person to talk to the relevant people.

This probably isn't a great idea, but if you are in a legal housing situation, landlords can't evict you immediately for not paying rent.

In the long run, I think transferring to a SUNY school might be your best bet, because of lower housing costs and still in state tuition.
posted by oceano at 4:57 AM on May 29, 2015

Have you considered moving across the Hudson and into NJ? My current apartment (in Newark) and my next apartment (in Jersey City) would both fit into your budget if split with roommates, and a lot of other stuff is less expensive here too. I commute into Manhattan five days a week and it's pretty painless.
posted by naturalog at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2015

Although, I don't want to rule out small businesses but a reason I'm in this mess is directly connected to one and I'd just rather not.

That's a pretty big generalization - I've noticed a lot of small businesses with hiring signs recently given that tourist season is just picking up. I'm sure they're advertising on craigslist etc. and you're seeing them, but if not, trying anywhere that primarily serves tourists (midtown is probably the easiest commute for you). And, in my experience, a well-run small business is waaaay better to work for than a chain store.

Also, most people that have found babysitting jobs outside of informal networks have done so through Might be worth a shot.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:17 AM on May 29, 2015

Not a job you want long-term, but you can get yourself hired and working within a week at Instacart. The application process is entirely online and fast. The company is a little shady and the pay isn't great, but they do pay on time and you set your own hours.
posted by idest at 10:29 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

To build on the above: also has senior care and pet care positions; I don't know how difficult it is to find jobs with those but I imagine people are looking.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:02 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding NJ for cheaper rent and easy access to Manhattan via public transport - look at Weehawken, Union City, West NY, North Bergen. There are major bus corridors to NY running on Boulevard East, Park Ave, and Bergenline Ave in those areas, plus the light rail which takes you to Hoboken/Jersey City, where you can get the PATH straight into Manhattan.
posted by blu_stocking at 8:03 PM on May 29, 2015

First of all, you sound very clever and resourceful, so give yourself a pat on the back for researching all your options and then taking action. Not everyone is able to do that.

Second, I would make sure your financial aid office and/or the appropriate student counseling center knows of your circumstances. They should have lists of resources of their own available, either through the school or through local agencies.

Third, years of proximity to social services has taught me there is a lot of help out there, but at the grass-roots level, so it can be hard to find. I'd start with agencies whose missions are in keeping with several of your needs: In NYC, the Henry Street Settlement seems like it will be of particular use to you. They work with job retraining, crisis intervention, legal and financial counseling.

Now, if they can't help you directly or refer you to another agency who can, you might consider Catholic Charities. You don't need to be Catholic to solicit help from them, and they also make a mission of several issues that plague you now, including help during crises, general support, and help with issues of homelessness.

Finally, in any city but New York, I'd immediately tell you to contact the United Way. They serve as an umbrella organization with links to numerous other nonprofits. Their mission is communitarian and aims to advance opportunities for good health, education and financial security. In other cities, I've know for a fact they have the discretion to sometimes make small loans to people, but New York is so big, my strong impression is they are much harder to access here. In other cities, you'd call and talk to someone there in person. Here, they have a more generic help page. Still, you might take a look at the resources there, and see if you can talk to someone there in person, if other agencies have not been of use.

Take care of yourself.
posted by Violet Blue at 9:22 PM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Do I need to rip up entire bathroom floor to...   |   What kind of insect is this? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.