need to move: must be under 1000 ft elevation, cold, low cost of living
November 15, 2017 1:32 PM   Subscribe

So my 19 year old son informed me last night that he quit his job, where he'd been for 1.5 years, and was going to buy a ticket to Buffalo New York. He wanted to move there today or tomorrow, with basically the clothes on his back and his laptop. He's saved $15,000 from the job, and wants to live on that until it runs out.

He does not want to work in the new location, just live and be away from his old life and town. He is a loner. He wants to spend his time reading. He plans to be only in his apartment or the library.

He has never lived on his own before, never moved, not travelled much outside our town in California. He is suffering from anxiety, maybe OCD ( has a diagnosis but no treatment) and is right now very focused on health and sickness. He wants to move out and live alone so he can control his environment more for germs, and also I'm sure just experience the normal stage for his age of independence.
He chose Buffalo somewhat randomly. I convinced him not to buy the ticket just yet. He mentioned Manchester (NH? ) as a second choice. I threw out many other cities and he shot them all down, mostly based on elevation or as being " too warm" or too expensive. He has eliminated Portland, Seattle, Dallas-- everything in the Rockies due to elevation
I finally threw out Des Moines, Iowa and he is now focusing there. I was so shocked that he seemed interested that now I'm wondering if there is an even better location I could suggest to him.
His criteria:
Low cost of living ( under $700 rent for studio or 1 bedroom)
Cold. ( snow. Dallas Texas showed 70 degrees last night and so he said no)
Under 1000 ft elevation. ( non negotiable. Something to do with OCD I'm guessing )
Far from California ( not sure how far is far enough)

My hopes:
Low crime, good public transportation ( he won't bring his car)
And as closer rather than farther to California. This is just a hope.
I don't know if big city is better than small town.
Maybe university town would be good.
He will be uninsured. He doesn't seem to care. I looked up Medicare in Iowa and it didn't sound great. In any case, he does not plan to get insurance. This idea alone is very stressful for me to think about as he is not the healthiest person and has had some health problems as a child.

I don't know how much time I have to help him decide before he leaves. He wants me to help him call some apartments in Des Moines right now, to see if he will need a co signer.

Does anyone have any town or location suggestions for him? Plan would be to fly out, I guess this week, get a motel and then try to find an apartment asap. This is pretty much the antithesis of how I would advise him to do this, but he's doing this his way and is very stubborn. He has untreated anxiety/ stress and he wants to do this to fix/ improve those issues. He is not open at all to therapy or medication. Just a change of lifestyle and location. I'm trying to do the right thing by him as his mom, whatever the right thing is.
posted by Rapunzel1111 to Travel & Transportation (60 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have answers, and I know you want to do what's best for your son, but as someone with depression and anxiety, this reads to me as being deeply unhealthy, incredibly immature behavior. I say that not in judgement but because you seem to be entertaining this whole idea as though it were the product of a rational thought process. It doesn't seem to be. Please get him help.
posted by marsbar77 at 1:38 PM on November 15, 2017 [80 favorites]

This will not help him. He will feel better initially with the change of scenery, but holeing up with 15k that will run out very quickly, in a environment where he will be nurturing his agoraphobia (he won’t leave his new digs) the anxiety will return and be a thousand times worse because he won’t have you or any other support this time. Honestly? This seems like a potential set up for suicide, especially if he refuses help. Once he realizes he moved a thousand miles away from his only support and his money will run out- he’ll be in a very bad place and that sort of despair realizing you’ve made a mistake can kill. Please get him help. Please don’t let him do this. Do whatever you can to convince him that therapy and medication is the answer, but blindly supporting him in moving a thousand miles away with the state of mind you’ve described does not paint a rosey picture of his future.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2017 [30 favorites]

[Folks, the "don't let him" suggestion is now covered. Please focus replies on places to live, or constructive things OP can suggest other than therapy.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

I would advise against Manchester. It is cold, small, has poor public transport, and lots and lots and lots of fentanyl and heroin. Portland, Maine is a more interesting small city in New England and my impression is that there is less heroin.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

If there's absolutely no stopping the move, and no getting him into treatment where he is now, at the very least you can steer him toward a place where future help is readily available. Cross-reference the criteria you've already mentioned with the presence of an active NAMI chapter and good mental health crisis services. Even better if there's already a friend or relative in the area to help keep an eye on him.
posted by D.Billy at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thank you for your thoughts. I do appreciate hearing the concern. I'm frankly scared to death I just don't know what is best to do. There's no convincing him about therapy and meds, and the only other way I know to get him help would be to try to have an involuntary type of commitment I guess. But we are on state Medicare and I have no idea how that works, not sure if he would even qualify since he is not currently a danger to himself or others and does not claim to be depressed. He would also I fear never trust me or speak to me if I tried that.

I was thinking at least if I helped him move or stayed involved in that way I would keep a communication line open with him at least.

If there is a way to keep him here I would welcome it.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm sorry I don't have much advice about where to live. I do have some other constructive ideas, I think.

Is he open to completing a degree program there? If you have the means, perhaps you could offer to foot the bill to a two-year degree at the community college nearby in Des Moines? It looks like they have a lot of trade programs in addition to humanities and STEM programs. This might help him think about next steps while he lives independently. Maybe he'd be into Accounting & Bookkeeping, or an Associate in Science.

You might also try to suggest a pet. I know he has germ issues but dogs can be quite clean (and so can cats, but litter box can be yuck). There is a huge movement about how pets can be a major protective factor in suicide prevention, and if that is something that worries you in the back of your mind, it's something to think about.

Best of luck to you.
posted by ancient star at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

As an LCSW this sets up many red flags for the beginning of schizophrenia. I am not your therapist and I cannot evaluate your child. Early treatment and intervention is key if that's part of the problem. It could also be a variety of other things . I as an internet person cannot tell.

In terms of housing Midwest is a good bet. Milwaukee might be a good suggestion, or Columbus as well. Some places near Chicago can have lower housing costs.

Anything you suggest should have the ability for him to get back to you via train, plane or bus fairly easily just in case it doesn't work out. Bring able to buy him a ticket home would be a great backup plan.

Also, you didn't mention but his communication style is going to be really important. Will your son call you or someone else if he is in trouble?

You are in a hard place, and he wants what he wants. You cannot change that. But you can talk to him about what he visualizes will be successes and problems. You can talk to him about how long 15,000 will last, dangers i
of lack of insurance, and back up plans.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2017 [22 favorites]

I agree with the above posters. These kinds of choices are what feed anxiety and grow it stronger. He is sending a powerful message to his brain and body that their overestimation of danger in the form of possible germ exposure is very real, and the only way he is successfully avoiding contamination is through these magical steps of specific temperature, elevation and isolation. More and more magic steps will get added over time and his world will shrink more and more. It's also concerning that this has happened so precipitously. Like others have said, it looks from the outside like a sign of worsening mental health concerns.

Would it be possible to come up with some kind of compromise? A trial period at home with some kind of therapy with a promise of support for a move after x number of months? If that's not possible, trying to continue to compromise on location so he is within easier reach if something should go wrong. You do not need to do the leg work to facilitate this. If he is interested in a move, he needs to demonstrate that at a minimum he can make the calls to landlords to set it in motion. Give him specific boundaries about what you will or will not do (e.g. accompany him to look at the city, give input to the process but not cosign for lease or make calls). Ultimately he is an adult and can make this choice, and may be successful. You may be able to set him up for better success by allowing him to make a coherent plan that does not involve flying out immediately, but scouting areas for pros and cons and compiling a list of apartments to look at together.

I think the idea of checking out healthcare options is crucial here. Iowa makes me think of Minnesota. Some options near the Twin Cities or Duluth might be a good fit, with better access to care.

This sounds so very scary. Best of luck to you both as you navigate this.
posted by goggie at 2:03 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

No car makes where in a given city very important to research, so I might focus on that? College town with college libraries, events he could possibly convince himself to go to even as a loner may be worth looking at.

Would he consider a community college program or other type of professional development program if you could find something in his cost range with housing for a year that starts in January?
posted by typecloud at 2:03 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Alaska has excellent mental health resources. It's cold. Some areas are right at sea level. He may find people like him there, may find community, may find the answers he's looking for. I'd urge him to be close to Anchorage, as that's where all the mental health is (or rather, the best/most). Anchorage is right at sea level. Good public transportation. Excellent bike/XC ski trails. Low crime. A flight from California so it feels far away (but luckily not a long or expensive flight, so you could get there quickly). University town, but full of loners, too.

You can get insurance for him. Even if he doesn't bill it, you can later bill the insurance and get reimbursed, so long as he's getting treatment that doesn't require pre-approval. A bronze plan for him there would be around $420, much less if he applies for the ACA supplement ($14/month). You almost certainly have enough information about him to manage that yourself. He would need an address in AK before you could do this, and open enrollment ends 12/15.

Des Moines is going to be SO HOT in the summer; I don't see how that would work for him.

But I agree with the others that this seems like a prelude to suicide, and being alone during the winter months might be very hard on him. I'm so sorry you're facing this, and hope you can find a good solution for him.
posted by Capri at 2:04 PM on November 15, 2017 [16 favorites]

Oh, and NAMI would be a great resource for you. They provide excellent support and advice to people with mental illnesses and their families. They may be able to give more detailed information about qualifying for mental health care in new locations. They would also be able to give support as a parent navigating this tricky dance of the transition from childhood to adulthood for your son.
posted by goggie at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Could you continue to express support, but frame it like...let's do some experiments to see where you'll be happiest? Like, "I hear you wanting to spread your wings and experience new things. How about before you commit to moving, you try out living in an Airbnb in the city of your choice for a month, then come back here and regroup and decide if you want to move there for good, or try another month in another city?" He might not like the city, he might be surprised how quickly his money goes, he might realize that it's a bad idea...but I think having an end date to the experiment would be really helpful. Agreed that college towns would be good ideas for him--maybe look in blue states where there will be stronger education and healthcare options.

Agreed with the others above that there is serious concern warranted here, which you also acknowledge. You must be in such a tough spot. My heart goes out to you both.
posted by stellaluna at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2017 [39 favorites]

if, for the sake of argument, he's going to do this come hell or high water and the only influence you have is over the choice of the city, then I'd try to steer him to whatever is closest to a friend or relative who could be there for him in the event of a financial/mental/whatever crisis
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2017 [30 favorites]

+1 on stellaluna's suggestion of location experiments before coming to a final decision. It's extremely unlikely he will move somewhere he has never been before and find that it is exactly what he wants (even if it meets his current criteria). I recommend pinpointing a variety of college towns, which will have lots of young people his age and lots of opportunities to sublet for 1-2 month intervals. The goal would be to not get locked into a long-term lease, and to be in places that offer decent learning/job opportunities and potential support systems. With that in mind, maybe Ithaca NY, Portsmouth NH, Madison WI.
posted by houseofleaves at 2:15 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Springfield, Ill., has both a university and a community college, is coldish in winter, has affordable house and a decent job market and is home to some good mental health providers.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:18 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

i agree with all the others that this is a bad idea. if it was just a kid with wanderlust that's one thing. but with his mental and physical health is a Bad Idea.

but, suggestions:

Ann Arbor, MI: chilly to cold 9 months out of the year; college town so decent (for the midwest) public transit in certain areas of town
Marquette, MI: chilly to cold for maybe 10 or 11 months of the year; no public transit I'm aware of, but "downtown" is coming in to it's own again, so maybe something there.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:19 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Also Burlington, VT.
posted by houseofleaves at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Rural areas will be MUCH less expensive. Since he does not plan to work or attend school, consider living in the middle of nowhere. Rent in some tiny town in the rural midwest is likely to be well under $500/month.
posted by redorangeyellow at 2:22 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

College towns tend to be expensive. Ann Arbor is not in his price range.
posted by FencingGal at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

He can check the non-car-living-ability of any address at
posted by redorangeyellow at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I just wanted to reply to an earlier post.. I don't recommend Portland, Maine (as a resident of a neighboring town). Rents are really not affordable right now. Despite the services in town being ok it's a bad place to end up homeless due to the winters.

I'd recommend a smaller town with access to a decent library. But as many have said, this sounds like a bad idea in general.
posted by selfnoise at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly I don't think this is necessarily a terrible idea, depending on the severity of his mental health issues. I was not much older when I packed up my car and drove to Montana, never having been there, not knowing anyone. It gave me a great lesson on self-reliance and I ended up going to college there. This was before cell phones and home internet were widespread so I was even more isolated than he would be.

I don't know Des Moines too well but it seems like a fine city from the times I've stopped there. Smallish college towns in Wisconsin: LaCrosse, Eau Claire, Stevens Point. All are walkable, cold in winter, and will have buses and/or trains to bigger cities. (Stevens Point is 1089', however.) I would have suggested Sioux Falls, SD but it's at 1470'. If he'd budge on that, it's a cheap city with very low crime and often brutal winters.
posted by AFABulous at 2:33 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here are some thoughts - hopefully this is helpful even though it doesn't directly answer your question. I am a psychologist, but I'm not your son's psychologist and know nothing about his specific needs and abilities.

1) You mention that "He wants me to help him call some apartments in Des Moines right now, to see if he will need a co signer". One way you could respond to this is to let him know that if he wants to move out on his own and make all of his own decisions, he'll also need to be responsible enough to meet his own needs. If he wants to call apartments to gather information, that's something he'll need to do on his own. If he doesn't qualify to sign a lease on his own (e.g. no income to display), then he won't be able to rent an apartment. That's something he's going to need to figure out. You have absolutely no obligation to co-sign anything for him, and it doesn't make you an unsupportive parent if you don't. In this case, I would suggest that co-signing for an apartment lease that he can't afford is actually the opposite of supportive, as it's just setting him up for failure.

2) Related to my first thought, maybe a helpful way to approach this would be to sit down with him and make a budgeting spreadsheet. His plan is to live on the $15,000 that he has until it runs out. Is he aware of all the expenses he'll encounter when he's on his own? He wants to live somewhere cold - does he know that he may have to pay for heating? If you come at this in a supportive way (i.e. helping him figure it out, not pointing out how wrong he is), maybe laying it all out will help him think through it a bit more.

3) Your son is an adult, and at the end of the day you can't stop him from moving if that's what he wants to do. I agree with the posters above that I'm concerned about his mental health, but that is absolutely not your responsibility. As you've stated, he's not interested in therapy or medication right now. Unfortunately, this is a process some people need to go through - he may need to go through some tough times before he's willing to get help.

4) One last small point - although smaller towns will have a lower cost of living, larger city will certainly have better access to mental health care. If he ends up in a serious mental health crisis, this may be an important consideration (though one he's probably not interested in thinking about right now).

It sounds like you're trying to balance respect for his decisions with justified concern for his well-being, and that's honestly the best thing you can do!
posted by scalar_implicature at 2:37 PM on November 15, 2017 [47 favorites]

I am worried for your son. I agree with everything said by other commenters and their conclusions and concern about the mental health implications. However, that having been said, I can best contribute by helping you to have the information you are asking for, as you try to guide your son to as safe a landing as possible, if this action cannot be stopped.

As a side note first, though, if he is against therapy or medication, is he open to doing it on his own via reading? If so, Mefites have always highly recommended The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook (the one by Edmund Bourne), and it may be useful in this scenario. Also, would he perceive a support group as "therapy"?

For the weather issue: This set of maps may be useful as it shows average high and low temperatures for each month of the year. Additionally, when evaluating a city, look for the "Climate Chart" graphic in these Wikipedia articles, or look for a "Climate" heading in a city's article on Wikipedia. For example, look halfway down the page on Climate of Chicago.

For the elevation issue: Wikipedia will also usually show a city's elevation, and they have List of U.S. States by Elevation; the "Highest Elevation", "Lowest Elevation", and "Mean Elevation" columns are sortable (just click on them). For example, Montana, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado all have their lowest elevation over the 1,000 feet, so those wouldn't work for him.

For the low cost of living: this calculator may be useful to compare against where you're currently living. This is from 2016 but has the average one-bedroom costs in 50 cities. This appears to be useful, and look at the Cities with the Fastest Declining Rents graph halfway down the page for a few ideas. Note that you're looking for a positive number -- the negative numbers on that graph are where rent is rising. A Google search for "United States rental markets" may be useful. I will also note this: if he is agoraphobic, then a particular solution could be financially useful in making the money last longer, but perhaps psychologically damaging -- microapartments. They are cheaper than studios in many cases, but I could see them reinforcing his agoraphobia.

For public transit: Here are cities that have rail systems and cities that have bus systems.

I wonder if Chicago would work for him and you. It is half the country away from California, but it is the midpoint, and not as far away as the East Coast. It is freaking cold for the winter, although hot and humid during the summer. It has a very, very robust public transit system, even out to nearby suburbs. If he insists on being uninsured, I'm fairly sure he could obtain medical treatment at the Cook County public hospital (their program is called CareLink), although I'm told that wait times there can be very, very long. Chicago is a big city and not a college town, but it is home to several universities. While any big city can be imposing, Midwesterners here are generally friendlier than in most big cities.

I wish you a lot of luck.
posted by WCityMike at 2:39 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

If you are thinking of being a co-signer on an apartment, realize that when his money runs out, you are on the hook for it. A bad break or two and this could happen much sooner than you are expecting.

You may want to take on his cell phone, so that you can be assured that he always has communication, can always reach out for help. Get him a second spare backup with different sim card, keep the info (sim and ime) so that either of you can activate it if needed.

I knew someone who wintered in a tent in a NJ state park, I think he just needed to leave for a day or two every month.
A decent folding bicycle could make using public transport a lot more doable.
posted by Sophont at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was him, except younger. I think you are getting sound, smart advice to be cautious, but it's entirely possible that he needs to do exactly what he is saying he needs to do.

If he was able to save 15K by age 19 (something that takes some serious maturity and discipline) and wants to leave home to read and get some clarity, it's hard to see how that's necessarily a bad thing.

You can't really find the perfect place by sticking a pin in the internet, but as someone who has moved a ton and lived on modest means, the trick is this (speaking very, very generally): the cheaper it is to live somewhere, the harder the life is. That holds for almost any criteria, from public transit and rent to the quality of the library and the condition of the plumbing.

If he gets a minute to think about the reality of that, he might be willing to consider something a little less isolated (like the aforementioned college towns) and then getting a part-time job to stretch his savings out.
posted by quarterframer at 2:49 PM on November 15, 2017 [18 favorites]

He may be able to do this in the Twin Cities, especially in St. Paul (although rents are rising, but a studio somewhere may be obtainable). I won’t go into whether this is a good decision, but the libraries here are first rate, the public transportation is decent, and there is good access to health/mental health services if that’s necessary. We have the cold part down pat, but it is pretty hot and humid here come August.
posted by heurtebise at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Re Chicago: Cook county hospital does have an 'insurance program' (it qualifies you for outpatient, inpatient and petscription care in the county health sysyem) but as someone unemployed once he whittles down his assets will qualify for Medicaid in IL (tradtional not aca. He most likely already qualifies for ACA medicaid already).

Their outpatient psych department does have long wait times especially for someone with non emergecy needs. There is also no inpatient mental health care in that that system. Chicago uses Madden generally for inpatient psychiayric hospital admissions for uninsured adults.

But, Getting an apartment for under 700 is a battle. You can do it, but i literally worked in low income housing for years and have the city practically memorized. It is complicated at best, for someone who has never navigated a rental market it could lead to all kinds of wierd, undesirable senarios and unexpected complications. Suburbs makes it easier but will increase transportation times greatly.

And of course the lower the rent generally means higher crime, requires advocasy for repairs, quality and safety of the actual building come more into play.

However there are tons of programs for youth his age, support for mental illness, community colleges and universities. It has a major greyhound station, amtrack and two major airports. All is accessible by public transit.

Also in case of homelessnees there are youth specific shelters for 18 to 24 year olds.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

In any of these locations, I think it's only to push him into more isolation and depression. Cold places where you need cars and don't actually need to interact with other humans. I agree this seems like a bad idea.

I would recommend maybe looking at Chicago and forgoing a car. It's not super cheap, but it's not as expensive as you might think. Cold winter weather, nice scenery and public transportation, and maybe he won't isolate himself so much.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going to set aside whether this is a bad idea or not, and suggest Duluth MN. College town, check. Good libraries. Good state based health care (Minnesota Care) and mental health services, check. No need for car, check (I did this myself the first few years I lived here, and the public transport is pretty decent). Not as far as Buffalo, for you (has airport, too). Not too bad in the cost-of-living department, and that budget for an apartment will work. And definitely cold, and under 1000 feet.

There are plenty of low-cost mental health and other social services located near downtown.
posted by RedEmma at 4:12 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Re: Milwaukee, which I saw suggested above - I have lived here for the past 7 years, many of those on a grad student salary which equated to about $15000 annually. It was only even remotely possible to live on that amount because I took out massive student loans alongside my stipend AND lived with a partner until April of this year. Any studio apartment below about $650 a month will be nowhere near reliable and useful public transit. I'm a lifelong Midwesterner and the winter weather can be profoundly isolating even if you live 5-10 minutes walking distance from downtown like I currently do. If he's never lived somewhere with harsh winters he is profoundly underestimating the effect they can have on mental health.

And Milwaukee is definitely cheap compared to, say, Chicago. $15000 sounds like a lot on paper but it's really not even going to buy him a year in one of the cheaper Midwestern cities. More rural areas might have cheaper rent and general COL expenses but will be lacking things like even the most basic public transit.

I totally understand that you are coming from a place where you can't change his mind, but I wanted to at least post from a perspective of living in one of the suggested fairly affordable cities that still meets his requirements so that the discussion you do have can contain some related anecdotal experience, at the very least. This sounds really hard and I wish you and your son the best figuring it out.
posted by augustimagination at 4:23 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

He sounds very determined to do this. It also sounds like you think that he is doing this as an attempt to escape from his own issues. You're probably right. A change of place does not fix one's inner problems, even if it provides temporary change, because you aren't leaving yourself behind. But he's not going to believe you, or anyone, until he learns this for himself.

If he wants to do this, I suggest following the advice of scalar_implicature and others above, and having your son do the work. While respecting his decision, and supporting him in other ways, don't help him find a place. Don't co-sign for a lease. He has to do this himself, because he has to be able to do it if he's going to be out on his own. He has to be able to call strange places. He has to know how to function on his own.

He should not drop insurance. This is the worst possible time for him not to be insured. If he moves somewhere with Medicaid expansion, he needs to apply for insurance on the marketplace. In Washington state, for instance, if he has no income and applies, he'd get put onto Apple Health (sad branding for state Medicaid program). Not great, but better than nothing. (I'm not sure how long it takes to be eligible.)

What I would suggest that you do is to have a solid and funded contingency plan in place to get him back home if/when he has a breakdown. Whether it is an emergency fund with enough to buy a plane ticket home at any time, or a credit card reserved for the purpose, or a bus ticket and cell phone. If nothing else, you or a geographically closer family member should be prepared and able to drop everything and go fetch him.

As a person who has rather similar symptoms to you son and who has done this sort of thing more than once, both before and after accepting that my mental illness is a real problem that I can't overcome with planning and willpower, I ask you to please be ready for him to have a breakdown. This is a perfect recipe for one. I never lasted longer than 3 months, no matter what I did. If the first time hadn't been fairly close to home, and if the most extreme hadn't had a return plan built in, either could have ended disasterously for me. If he's anything like me, he won't look for medical/mental health help until he is very impaired. I didn't hit what many would consider rock bottom, but only due to planning, luck, and a supportive family.

Luck and supportive family meaning that my mother was always there and able to throw me a lifeline. No judgement, no blame, easy for me to take if I was willing to reach.

Take care of yourself here too. Give or offer whatever amount of assistance in this endeavor that feels right to you so that you can live with yourself during and afterwards. You can't live his life for him, and he has to learn how to do it himself. Part of that is dealing with his mental health on his own terms. You may have to let him fall. I'm so sorry that you are in this position.
posted by monopas at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2017 [14 favorites]

Please not Alaska/ Anchorage. The cost of living is very high and the winters are very dark and very long. I agree with everyone above and I hope the best for you and your family.
posted by kerf at 4:53 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

If he's going to do this (and it is stupid), I don't really see what the point of deterring him from Buffalo in particular is? Buffalo's relatively cheap, it's got an airport with non-stop flights from LAX, it's a university town (SUNY Buffalo). Pretty far from California but in terms of travel time closer than half the places people are mentioning. You could do worse.
posted by crazy with stars at 4:55 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Monopas has it completely, I think. I know he is so young and you are panicking but he's 19 and you can't stop him and so the most loving thing to do is say "I don't think this is a good idea, I love you and will offer you advice and be here if/when you need a crash pad, but I can't help you (find an apartment, cosign, etc.) because you're a legal adult and you need to be responsible for the decisions you make."
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am in central Iowa, and what I hear is that access to mental health services - especially for low-income people - is a real problem in central IA. Probably less bad in Des Moines than the smaller towns in the area, but still not great. Might be worth looking into further before considering a move.
posted by Jeanne at 5:37 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why not Buffalo? (I mean, aside from the obvious reasons that would apply anywhere he went.) It's very cheap, the food is off the hook good, the people are nice, and there's a ton of stuff to do. It's one of my favorite cities.

Manchester, on the other hand... You dodged a bullet (maybe literally). I've travelled widely. Manchester is without question the worst city in the United States. Think of the most run-down, economically depressed city you can imagine (e.g. Detroit or Gary, Indiana), but then subtract all the urban renewal and downtown revitalization, so that all you have left are decaying houses and empty warehouses. And no residential suburbs, just the inner city. That's Manchester. It's awful. We looked at apartments there when we moved to NH, and they literally made my wife (who grew up in Buffalo, incidentally) cry.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:48 PM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Maybe Champaign-Urbana? It's been decades since I've lived there, but in the winter, it is cold, and flat, and there WILL be snow. It has a bus system, it has Amtrak, it has apartments under $700/month, it has all the libraries of the University of Illinois. Link to Wikipedia article about the region.
posted by apartment dweller at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

"One way you could respond to this is to let him know that if he wants to move out on his own and make all of his own decisions, he'll also need to be responsible enough to meet his own needs. If he wants to call apartments to gather information, that's something he'll need to do on his own. If he doesn't qualify to sign a lease on his own (e.g. no income to display), then he won't be able to rent an apartment." from scalar_implicature

This is your answer. Be strong. It's a dose of reality that will force him either to stay, freak out and get treatment, or go and face the consequences. You are being a loving parent to do this. Co-signing means inevitable quarrels about money, and either he, or you, or you both, will become exasperated with the other. You can simply state that you cannot co-sign for him for your own financial security reasons. It isn't personally about him at all. My parents would NEVER have co-signed for me. I learned to be independent.
posted by itsflyable at 6:35 PM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]

If I may bring this question to the point that the first commenter made....
Is there a limit to what you think a parent should do to stop the person in question from buying the airline ticket and leaving?
If anyone has been on either side of this type of situation before, and a parent tried to engineer an involuntary psyc hold, did it destroy the relationship? I'm concerned that they will not find cause to hold him and then he will mistrust me. This concerns me for being able to help him in the immediate and to not " lose" him somewhere if he does become less stable.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 6:37 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

The laws vary from state to state, but without a diagnosis, with no evidence of his being a danger to himself or to others at this point, you will have a hard time getting any kind of psych hold. I'm really worried for your son, but I wouldn't damage the relationship trying to get him committed when, at least based on what you've told us, you won't succeed.
posted by praemunire at 6:51 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

It was about 20 years ago now, but the neighborhood where I lived in Buffalo was dirt cheap, walking distance to bus, subway, one of the State University campuses (with free shuttle bus to the other campus where the bigger libraries are) and a grocery store. There's a world-class art museum and one of the better Shakespeare in the park companies in the state. If the question is just what city should he move to, I wouldn't automatically rule Buffalo out.

I'm not sure it's a good idea for him to move *anywhere* without taking a little time to figure things out first, though.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

MidStream to answer your very relevant question, he does not have access to firearms nor has he ever been to a firing range.
He does not do drugs or alcohol, as he is extremely, extremely worried about " toxins/ poisons", and groups all drugs, even prescribed pharmaceuticals into that column at the moment.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 7:12 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

My suggestion is to bribe him. Make a deal with him that if he goes to a psychiatrist and therapist for three or six months and follows their suggestions, you will pay for his bus ticket or rental deposit or some other motivating thing. Tell him he doesn't have to think it will work, only try for the specified time. Make the deal as attractive as you can.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

I don't think an involuntary psych hold is a possibility - here are the California rules - it only applies to cases where the person is an active danger to himself or other or gravely disabled. Even if he was admitted, the initial hold is only 72 hours with possible extension to 14 days. Not enough to help if he has no insight or desire for treatment.

Furthermore, assuming that it doesn't result in miraculous insight, I would imagine your son would be very upset and angry, at least until he matures enough to appreciate why you might have done it. (just guessing, my kid had three psych commitment but they were all voluntary so a different experience.

So, bad news is that there really isn't anything you can do to stop him beyond whatever personal influence you might have.
posted by metahawk at 10:26 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don’t think you should burn bridges. If he isn’t a proven danger to himself or others, a psych hold likely won’t work and the interaction with authorities will turn him against you.

Let’s look at the best case scenario: your son is a bit of an odd duck with some unusual preferences, and he’s trying to stretch his wings in a place that suits his liking. I suggest Idaho or Utah, personally; lots of space, but also affordable flights from CA in case things get difficult.

I love the idea of a one-month AirBNB/trial. I hope you can recommend that to him. It gives him an easy out of he changes his mind later.

Be strong, Mom. You and your son will get through this.
posted by samthemander at 10:31 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

At 17 my kid with mental health issues was making plans to move cross-country when she turned 18 to live someone she met on the Internet.

I was in a position to make some requests on the basis that "I'm your Mom, I love you, I will worry about you. Here are a just a couple of things that I REALLY need you to do just to keep from worrying excessively." This is where you ask him to make sure to have health insurance (so he doesn't go broke if he has accident or medical emergency. (My husband had appendicitis at age 21, my daughter at 17. These happen unexpectedly to young healthy people and they are very expensive.) I also asked for regular calls or texts or emails (I need to know you are alive)

I only offered to pay for the things that seem like safety essentials - health insurance, medical expenses, cell phone (since I am asking for regular contact). Other living expenses were her problem - she wants to be an independent adult, she needed to pay her own way.
I also wanted to know the plan and to see the budget - not to judge but to reassure me that there is a plan that makes sense.

Fortunately for me, the move never happened and when she did leave home it was in a way that we could fully support but that was very, very scary time.
posted by metahawk at 10:49 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think Montpelier Vermont would be a good place. While ti lacks public transportation, f you lived somewhere downtown you can walk everywhere without any bother. It also tends to collect some rather unique people and rent should be around $500-$600 a month. Good food around as well as good hikes if he would eventually want to go out, and there are some old book stores along with the library in town. He could fly into Burlington and then take the bus down to Montpelier (greyhound so pretty cheap) and once settled wouldn't really need a car. According to Wikipedia the elevation is 600ft. (obviously higher as you walk uphill, it would be possible to get over 1000ft without going that far.

Cold in winter (sometimes COLD!!!!) but rather pleasant in the summer, approaching Hot a few days a year. Usually in summer the nightime temperatures will drop back into the 60s overnight. Snow is usually November to early May/late April depending on the year. Also has an arthouse cinema if they get tired of reading and want to watch some odd movies.
posted by koolkat at 2:35 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a tough situation and my heart goes out to you. I want to add a few comments about living in a cold place during winter. I grew up in northern California and now live in Ottawa, Canada, which has very cold winters (but nice warm summers!). I saw from your profile (sorry for snooping) that you're in coastal southern California, so this is something to consider unless your son has experience with cold snowy conditions (e.g., if you go to the mountains for skiing, you probably know what's involved already).

Winter requires special gear, especially if your son will be walking or taking public transportation. Even if he plans to spend most of his time in his apartment and the library, he'll need to get from one to the other and go to the grocery store. It's hard to imagine how cold it can be if you haven't experienced it.

The key items:
- Boots. Absolutely necessary if there will be snow (tennis shoes won't cut it). They don't have to be snow boots; I wear ordinary hiking boots most of the winter and am fine (while walking, not while standing around). Doc Martins would probably be fine as well.
- A decent coat. Down is excellent. Again, a light jacket will not be enough.
- Toque (or woolly hat that covers his ears), scarf, and mittens.

I'm not saying that you should necessarily force these items upon him, but he should think about the requirements (maybe look at some pictures of people outdoors in some of the cities he's considering and take note of what they're wearing). If he decides to buy the gear after he arrives, it could easily cost him hundreds of dollars: worth considering when he's budgeting.

Many of the places that have been mentioned up-thread have cold winters but hot, sticky, HUMID summers. Again, very different from coastal southern California. This may be a way to convince your son to put a time limit on the experiment, and only commit to a rental through the end of April or May. If he only likes cold places, he's going to be pretty miserable in Chicago in July.
posted by heatherlogan at 4:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

$15k can get him decently far, especially in a cheaper town (ie. NOT Chicago) if he's willing to live with others and share costs. Even if he's not, he's going to run into issues just about anywhere, especially if he's not going to be employed. Does he realize that living on his own costs more than just rent?

Most of your concerns have been addressed above, but only Kevinbelt has answered any of your concerns about Buffalo. Assuming this is happening, why not Buffalo?

Buffalo is fantastic. It's snowy, it's friendly, it's up & coming, it's a university town. Public transport is ok, especially if he's going to live in one of the campus areas. Food and Arts cultures are amazing. The airport is good and is a Southwest hub, so flights are fairly plentiful. (And if not, Toronto is 2 hours away and easy to get to.) There is plenty of goings-on, tons of festivals year round, and a number of libraries and museums. There has been a lot of money pouring into development around the city and even in just the 4 years I've been living here, it's been fantastic to see.

Feel free to MeMail me with more questions about Buffalo. I love it here.
posted by RhysPenbras at 5:30 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you buy a house under $75K? Yes. Would you want do? Definitely!

So I know your son does not want to work; perhaps he'd change his mind if he found he could *buy* a house that wouldn't have insanely high notes every month.

Most of these houses are not glamorous, you'd not be hosting hollywood parties in them. But two of them might fit your sons needs, both that A-Frame and that white Cape Cod, both in Ohio, both selling for 50K.

There's a couple of others there that caught my eye (I think that A Frame looks like fun and it's in your sons criteria, but more than that A Frame I especially dig that sweet bungalow in SC -- what a nice house!) but they're in locales that get some heat and humidity; heat and humidity is not a problem for me but I know it's a deal-killer for your son. But no. way. am I leaving Texas, and no. way. at. all. that I'm leaving Austin. So for me it's look but don't touch....
posted by dancestoblue at 6:54 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Des Moines I don't think would be a good choice. Very difficult without a car, very hot in the summer, and Iowa Medicaid is a shitshow. He will not have access to healthcare in any real sense.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:56 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think it would be helpful to think of your worst-case scenarios and plan for those. What are you really worried about? He's miserable? He ends up on the streets? In the first case, so what, he's 19, he made his choices and it will probably teach him to make different ones. In the second case, I would tell him that your home is always open to him if he wants to come back, and that there is no shame/you will not judge him for it. I agree with the person who said you should pay for medical insurance if he cannot get medicaid. I would insist on this. I don't know if you can sign someone up without their permission/knowledge like you can with life insurance.

Honestly, the worst worst case scenario would be suicide and nothing you wrote indicates that he's suicidal. Most people with OCD and anxiety do not kill themselves. His desire for a change of scenery and some independence is evidence that he WANTS to live. (I am not a mental health professional.)

Unless you're grossly downplaying his mental health issues, you sound a little helicopter-ish to me. Let him go, let him succeed or fail on his own merits. His age is a perfect time for this.
posted by AFABulous at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was in a position to make some requests on the basis that "I'm your Mom, I love you, I will worry about you. Here are a just a couple of things that I REALLY need you to do just to keep from worrying excessively." This is where you ask him to make sure to have health insurance (so he doesn't go broke if he has accident or medical emergency. (My husband had appendicitis at age 21, my daughter at 17. These happen unexpectedly to young healthy people and they are very expensive.) I also asked for regular calls or texts or emails (I need to know you are alive)

I have been in the place of metahawk's daughter. This was pretty much what mom asked of me when I moved overseas at 21. That opportunity was more stable, but the one two years later wasn't as much. We tweaked our needs and wants mutually and it worked until I moved back home for grad school some years later. Fast forward 16 years, I'm a 'responsible' adult living on my own in an urban area near mom. So things to be cautious of, but not the end of the world.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bellingham, WA

If he has his passport, I would instead push him to go international. Broadening his horizons might help him put is current worries into perspective.

Much of South Korea would fit his requirements (for three month visa IIRC). Most of Europe would work though costing more; Eastern Europe might fit it all.
posted by flimflam at 12:22 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the worst worst case scenario would be suicide and nothing you wrote indicates that he's suicidal. Most people with OCD and anxiety do not kill themselves.

This has not been my experience.

If he's determined to go, really beat the drum on having medical insurance. Should he so much as slip and fall on unfamiliar ice, anyone might call 911 and he may not realize how expensive an uninsured ambulance ride would be even before being treated. If he has insurance now, he should get a full check-up before relocating (which is not helicopter parenting, but common sense).
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm going to disagree about Milwaukee. I took a brief look on craigslist just out of curiosity and was pretty shocked to see this studio for $440 with heat & electric included. This is a VERY good location for a young person. Extremely walkable and accessible to transit and recreation.

So that got me thinking about a budget. They may let you rent without a cosigner if you can show them your bank statement and that you have no other debt.

First/deposit = $880
Initial home setup = $1000 (2nd hand furniture, pots/pans, linens, perhaps an overestimate)

$13120/12 months = $1093 per month

Rent $440
Food $300 (estimate, I don't really know how much 19 year olds eat but I figured he wouldn't be going out much) (with no income he could get food stamps of about $150/month but he'd be required to look for work. check eligibility here, you don't have to give them identifying info)
Home supplies $100
Monthly Bus Pass $72
Internet $11 (AT&T subsidized cost, if you qualify for food stamps, otherwise ~$60)
Cell phone $25 if low usage (Ting)

Total $898-1097 depending on internet/food stamps. If you pay for health care, and he can be trusted to budget, he can do this. (Other people mentioning Medicaid, remember there are usually residency requirements. I believe Wisconsin is six months, for example). If you don't absolutely trust that he can stay on budget, pay his rent directly (out of his funds) so at least he won't get evicted.
posted by AFABulous at 2:42 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not a location-based comment, but based on the rental market around here, places that are inexpensive usually don't give off a particularly germ-free vibe.
posted by slightlybewildered at 10:56 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Update. Firstly, I cannot thank you enough for all of your comments. There was something helpful in every single one. I read all of the suggested cities to my son, who researched each one. I also gave the suggestion of trying a city just for a month. After two days of major stressing over all this, he suddenly announced that he hadn't realized choosing a town would be so hard ( he added a new condition, that the reported lead levels for each city be under a certain number- which eliminated most towns) and didn't know that apartment obtaining was so complicated. He announced he'd spoken with his former boss and agreed to come back to work, but postponed the restart date by 10 days so he could " de- stress".
This episode showed me we need to encourage him to address his anxiety/ OCD issues, and need to encourage him to take on more independence sooner rather than later, but in smaller more manageable stages. I'm going to suggest he try to find an apartment with a roommate in our expensive area- just to get him a rental history, and practice living on his own. Thanks again to all the suggestions, and I have to admit, Buffalo actually does sound like a cool town!!
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 11:54 AM on November 18, 2017 [19 favorites]

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