How to help a homeless friend?

How to help a homeless friend?

As the U.S. economy enters its fourth year of turmoil, average folks continue to struggle. At GRS, we've shared questions and stories about people who can't make ends meet, who are losing their homes, and who find themselves out of work. But we've never tackled the homeless before.

Today, though, Evan wrote with a tough situation. One of his friends is out on the street, and he feels guilty because of it. Should he help? What's his responsibility here — financially and otherwise? Here's Evan's question:

I've read your website for years, but I ‘ve never written for advice until today. Now I could use advice from you and your readers.

I have a childhood friend who's in trouble. I've known him since we were both ten. We went to school together, so I saw first-hand his rocky childhood. He never finished college, but he's always been able to find a job until recently.

My friend just emailed to say that he's been homeless for four days in Phoenix. I'm appalled at this. I'm sitting in my luxury condo knowing someone I grew up with is suffering. I could Western Union him some money, and probably will, but I don't know if this is any sort of long-term help.

I'm trying to decide what I should do to help get him set up again. I can see on Craigslist that there are rooms for rent by the month in places that don't cost much money. I just want him to have a roof over his head and some stability so he can find another job, retail or otherwise. I don't know of any addiction problems (other than cigarettes); he never did drugs in his teens or twenties, and he isn't a huge drinker. He's meeting with a job counselor at the shelter soon.

Have you ever had an experience like this? With so many people unemployed and so many homeless, what do those of us who are well off do when confronted with someone we know in this position?

Have I ever had an experience like this? Not exactly.

I've certainly had childhood friends who ended up in trouble, financial and otherwise. (In fact, it was the death of my best friend from high school that put into motion massive changes in my life three years ago.) It's always difficult to know how (and how much) to help.

Those from the tough love camp say, “Never lend money to family and friends. Don't give financial help.” And, of course, they have a point. You don't want to enable bad behavior, and you don't want to create rifts in the relationship over a few hundred dollars. There have absolutely been instances where I've refused to provide financial help in cases where I thought doing so would create more problems than it would solve.

Having said that, I'm not much of a tough love type of guy. I'm a softie. If I were in a pinch, I'd hope my friends would pitch in to help me out; in turn, I usually do what I can to help those with financial problems. I take a lot of flak around here for not donating much to charity, but I'm pretty free with my money when it comes to people I know. Helping a friend with financial problems makes me feel good, and I hope it helps these friends find their footing.

What can Evan do in this case? What should he do? Only he can make that decision, obviously, because only he knows how much he trusts his friend, and only he knows how much money he can afford to lose. But surely there's some general advice we can offer. And there are probably some GRS readers who have first-hand experience with this sort of thing.

Have you ever been homeless? Known somebody who was? What helped with the situation? What can the average person do to help a homeless friend? What would you do? Do you have any advice for Evan? Should he give his friend money? Rent him an apartment? Help him find a job? What advice can you offer?

Note: One great resource for situations like this is Donna Freedman's GRS post about how to get help when you're unemployed or underemployed. The article is a year old, but it's packed with practical tips for those in trouble.

Update!
Evan has been posting more information in the comments below. His are the highlighted comments.

Also, Becky Blanton wrote to share a TED talk she gave about the year she was homeless. Here's a video of that presentation:

Blanton also pointed to a free e-book she created called Homeless for the Holidays.

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Barb
Barb
8 years ago

A bit of clarification about the “tough love” rule of never loaning money to friends and family. I believe it is a good rule, and pretty much live by it myself. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t GIVE money to them. Many times I have loaned the things I value most in my life: books. And they have been damaged (even by people who cared about books and about me, and knew how I felt), and sometimes they have not been returned at all. Finally I decided to NEVER loan another book. And I haven’t. Instead, when I want… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

I would think sending a book about being frugal would come off as preachy, no matter what. There is nothing in this post to indicate that his friend is homeless because he doesn’t know how to save money. What his friend needs right now is a safe place to live, not a book. Having extra possessions to cart around with you when you have no place to live does not sound like the best course of action, no matter how well meaning. I don’t have any good answers myself, because my immediate reaction to this was to offer your friend… Read more »

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

No kidding! He needs income as well.

If you have to buy a book – make it something about employment.

Rachel
Rachel
5 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

You might want to include the receipt as well because I’m sure he could use the money over that book any day. The homeless people I’ve met usually spend a lot of time at the library anyway so he can read there when he’s looking for jobs and apt’s…

Jessica
Jessica
2 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Offering a friend a place to crash is what got me into a sticky situation. She was down on her luck, lost her kid, her job and her mom recently passed away. I told her I had a spare bedroom she could use until she got back on her feet. This ended up being a bad idea. When she called and said she was stopping at the store and did I need anything, I told her we were low on milk. That 1/2 gallon of milk established her as an “at will tenant” even though she does not pay rent… Read more »

Christine
Christine
1 year ago
Reply to  Jessica

You are a very kind person and I’m so sorry you were so horribly taken advantage of by someone who did not deserve your kindness. I wish you much luck, all the best and many miracles. Good luck ?- you are also very kind to share your experience to help others.

Oete
Oete
1 year ago
Reply to  Jessica

The same happened to me,they were only supposed to stay a couple of weeks, ended up being over a year. I paid for a place for them , deposit and first month rent , and they haven’t paid me back. Recently they are homeless, asked if they could stay with me. I said I couldn’t do that. Tough love

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

Ive not seen anything that implies this guy is homeless for any reason other than he has no money and no job. At this point he doesnt need a book on frugality. He needs a roof over his head and food. One has to HAVE a certain amount of dollars in hand to be able to spend them

Steven
Steven
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

Not to mention that Scratch Beginnings was written by a person of priviledge who willingly opted into homelessness, using the system to his advantage. Not sure it’s really all too relevent to most homeless folks who are there for a multitude of reasons that are too poltical/emotionally charged to be discussed here.

Richard austin
Richard austin
1 year ago
Reply to  Barb

I can say I agree with you and from personal experience can say that wen I was homless and had addiction problems no one would help me..I was secluded to a dark place and knew friends or family went totally oposite ways ..wen there was no hope I sank deeper into certain death..my mind wouldn’t work ..I was so lost..even the ppl throwing things at me calling me garbage picker wile I ate discussing things out of a bin were not seeing a broken man with feelings..nor someone crying for help..I had called on a local Internet sight anonymously to… Read more »

John Dettinger
John Dettinger
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard austin

We too bought a homeless person into our house. Yes we had an additional room for her to rest her head. Although I have discovered the first month she wasn’t sleeping for fear that we would kick her out, which we didn’t and never would. I didn’t she her but my wife was taking her to a food cupboard at first. She wound up in a hospital at which time her landlord threw her out if her apartment along with her possessions. Then she became homeless reaching out for help for food & shelter as she was only 30. That’s… Read more »

Chase
Chase
8 years ago

Well the first question, which isn’t mentioned in the post explicitly, is can you afford to give money to your friend? You say you’re in a luxury condo, but do you have extra cash every month that you can give to them? I agree with never loan money to friends. I did it for about two years to a roommate that was always short on cash. It hurt our friendship. If you want to donate cash, and can afford to do it, I would contact your friend (the one that told you about the homeless friend) that lives in the… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I hate to be cynical, but before you send him money, talk to him directly on the phone. Don’t just rely on email. I have heard of email hacks where the friends of the victim received requests for money.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I was going to say the same thing! The friend can find a computer with internet access but can’t find a phone to place a collect call? That’s a red flag for me. I read a lot about scams as part of my job, and I’ve seen people get caught by emails requesting money for help. Unfortunately, scammers are using the bad economy for all kinds of cons.

I would also talk to his family or any other friends he might have contacted before you think about wiring money.

Sara
Sara
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Good catch! This never even occured to me. I have heard about this scam with young people having an imposter police officer or court officer or something call their friends grandparents claiming they needed immedicate bail money wired to them. Of course, the grandparents fall for it to help their beloved grandchildren… definitely verify this claim before your help. That said, if I had it, I think I would help in some way. But I do have to add that it really drives me crazy to see people who have or had larger incomes than mine but never put any… Read more »

Leah
Leah
8 years ago
Reply to  Sara

Someone did this to my husband’s grandma — they called and said he was in jail in Toronto! Everyone started texting *me* to find out what was going on, and I said he must have driven fast to get to Toronto after I left for work that morning (Toronto is easily 20+ hours from where we live). She was told not to call anyone, so I’m glad she lives with my husband’s uncle and told him before she left to wire money.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

LOL! Place a collect call? Can you even do that to a cellphone? It’s just so 1980s that I can’t quite get my head around it.

In my city, getting to one of our libraries is the easiest (and warmest) place to use a computer, with or without a library card. And it has bathrooms too.

That’s not to say that more info shouldn’t be gathered, but this suggestion just struck me as a blast from the past!

Colleen
Colleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Agreed. I’ve worked with the homeless in a major city and the easiest way to get in touch with them was via email because they always had access from any public library. And when you don’t have a permanent physical address, having a permanent web address becomes critical. I wouldn’t disregard his friend simply because he used email.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I didn’t say to disregard his friend because it was an email — I said it would be a warning sign and he should check into it before sending money. Think about it: we research the products we buy, we research our investments, but we’re not supposed to think twice about sending money to a friend without figuring out what’s going on? I understand that email is the easiest way for someone who is homeless or travelling to contact people, but you know what? The crooks know that too. They’re relying on the “the only contact I have with the… Read more »

Emily
Emily
2 years ago
Reply to  Jen

You can make a collect call from a cellphone by dialing *182.

If you’re communicating by email, CERTAINLY suggest a date, time and place to meet in person if you’re going to have a money-related transaction, if you live in the same general vicinity. That’s not so hard.

And if your friend didn’t have addiction issues before going homeless, and you know them reasonably well, there’s a good chance they’re not using drugs or alcohol much now… there’s a vicious stereotype out there that the homeless are all plagued with the same problems.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

another factor is the scarcity of public pay phones these days. i read an article a while back about how they’re doing away most of them, esp. the booths, since bums just hang out in them and everyone has cellphones anyway. i tried to find a pay phone once after that and it was more difficult than i thought. they really are a dying breed.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  cc

Maybe it’s a regional thing? My city doesn’t booths all over the place like it used to, but you can still find pay phones all over the place. I do see your point.

But as Evan later mentions, his friend does have a phone so this conversation is a moot point anyway.

Deborah+M
Deborah+M
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Agreed!!

Evan
Evan
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa
To clarify, we have spoken extensively on the phone since I got the intial email. He has a prepaid cell phone from unemployment/welfare with limited minutes and as I live in Canada he can’t call me with it, but I can call him. Email is the only way he can intiate contact. And no, he’s not scamming. I was talking to him and overhearing him talk/wait for emergency food stamps 2 days ago.
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

Thanks for the clarification! Sorry to hear that this is in fact your friend’s situation. I hope everything works out for you and your friend.

SB @ One Cent At A Time
SB @ One Cent At A Time
8 years ago

Teaching how to fish is always better than giving fish. I would have tries to fund his vocational courses. Learning a new trade might land him a job. If you alone can’t fund this, cheap other friends in. Let the job counselor talk to him, and as per the suggestion try to get him enrolled in appropriate course.

Jeff
Jeff
8 years ago

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people out of work right now who are qualified job applicants who “know how to fish.”

This attitude that people are unemployed only because they lack skills or are lazy is all too pervasive. Even good fisherman can’t make fish bite if they’re not there!

Steph
Steph
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeff

Amen! I was at a doctor’s appointment today and the fact that I have been looking for work for over 6 months came up when we were talking about stress. Later he asked about my educational background, and when I replied a Masters (in the Biological Sciences, with years of research experience as well) he scoffed and said employers should be looking for me, not the other way around. I am currently hoping for a job offer from a company that has told me it is waiting to make sure they have funding for me for next year. At the… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
8 years ago

First off, never feel guilty for your success over your friends. Everyone choses a path. I have some friends from the old neighborhood who are barely scraping by and other friends who make me look like a pauper. Given this individual hasn’t hidden an addiction from you, I think offering to pay for a room for rent for a month or two (particularly in the winter) is a generous offer and something I’d be likely to do. You could call it a loan if it makes them feel better in accepting it, but I wouldn’t ever expect it back. I’ve… Read more »

Deborah+M
Deborah+M
8 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

I’d consider the friend, and not make it a loan at all, but a clear gift. If the money is framed as a loan, that loan (and challenges repaying it) may hang over his head and not help with his focus at all. Much better to frame it as an outright gift, with the requirement to Pay it Forward (do the same for someone else) when he’s able.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  Deborah+M

I agree with the gifting. I have helped out friends in need via gifts and loans (see below). If you can afford to give and this is someone you care about and are close with then give a gift of cash, help with first and last month rent or security deposit, clothes for interviewing, medical expenses, etc. I sorta understand the mantra never loan money to family or friends in that it can strain a relationship if there are problems with payment. But if you can’t ask family for money, who can you ask? I’ve borrowed and paid back money… Read more »

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Deborah+M

Why not just *ask* the friend what he wants? Maybe I missed something in the article, but isn’t this the obvious solution?

Ask how you can help. He knows best what he needs.

And it seems to me that if you’re not sure whether a loan will save pride or add stress, you can just offer to give him the money. If he can’t accept, suggest it as a loan.

Dogs or Dollars
Dogs or Dollars
8 years ago

Donna Freedman has written a couple good pieces here and on her own blog about the trials and tribulations of lending money to friends. Not exactly the same situations, but those might be worth a read. I agree that its all about how much money you can GIVE (note: that is not lend). Since it sounds like you arent in the same city as your friend that limits your non-monetary options. If he were geographically close you could offer meals and/or a couch to crash on, the use of a physical address for job apps, etc. Also since you arent… Read more »

sjw
sjw
8 years ago

A friend was homeless in another city for some time. A group of us paid for a storage locker to keep sentimental items until they were able to stabilize their living arrangement, and provided small cash amounts throughout. Before the person lost their place, we did make several cash gifts to help keep the original apartment for a couple of extra months. We continue to make group purchases (~$100 split across 4-5 people) of items every 6 months or so to help with a small crafting business. Over the years, it has added up, but at no point has it… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  sjw

It’s hard to help people who are far away and already lost their housing. A storage locker is a great, cheap way to help.

A gym membership or paying car insurance/tag fees to keep him driving legally are both good ones, too – having access to a place to bathe, work out, and relax can be really helpful, and letting things like car tags lapse can just snowball – tickets, then lost license, then illegal driving tickets, etc. I’ve seen that happen to more than one friend at a bad time in their life.

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

These are all excellent suggestions — they are things that help insure that the person doesn’t fall further behind, into a hole that’s much harder to dig out of.

Ginger
Ginger
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Great ideas. And I’d add something that I’ve done before, which is to loan the friend a cell phone under my family plan. I blocked certain services to ensure that the cost stayed at $9.99 a month + tax. About 22 years ago, I went through a period that I refer to as “dislocation.” The term “homeless” was too tough to wrap my head around. I was divorced with three precious daughters, ages 5, 4, and 2 at the time. It’s too much to explain here, but… A friend took us into her apartment for a defined time period. (We… Read more »

Becky+P.
Becky+P.
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

As crazy as it is, I’ve never thought about the fact that a gym membership provides a shower!

Why didn’t I think of that to all the people I know around here who live without running water in their houses/apartments? (I’m in Poland and many people don’t have baths/showers…and frankly, I’ve never thought about a gym membership which always seemed a bit luxurious.)

Interesting idea! Really.

hiyaE
hiyaE
8 years ago

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed I believe that the first thing to do is if you have cash, pay for a roof over his head and food to eat. Couch Surfing is an option as well. Look for Couch surfing websites (lot cheaper than renting a whole place). If you don’t have the cash, get a plane ticket for him and ask him to stay with you if you have room. If not, see if you can find an option close to you to see if you can help him out. Does he have some barterable skills… Read more »

Mike Holman
Mike Holman
8 years ago
Reply to  hiyaE

I’m pretty sure nobody will offer up their couch to a homeless guy. That’s not what couch surfing is all about.

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Holman

Even if the guy is a friend?

Khadijah
Khadijah
8 years ago
Reply to  hiyaE

I am sorry hiyaE but I think your idea of couchsurfing is a terrible idea and not to mention extremely inaccurate and opposing to the mission of couchsurfing (read: abuse). As an active member of the site, I’ve seen many examples of members abusing the site. This is not good for the community. Couch surfing is a network for people who travel and people who are interested in exchanging travels, ideas, culture etc. It is not a place for free shelter, or free sex, or free food, although there are some people who do it and we cannot control it,… Read more »

Melinda
Melinda
8 years ago

Evan, you don’t say where you are living right now. Can you visit and see with your own eyes what’s going on? Has he had any mental health issues? From my perspective, your friend emailed you because he needs help and he’s hoping you can offer him some. It’s difficult to admit to someone that you’re homeless; there’s a stigma. He trusts you enough to open up and tell you that something is wrong in his life. If you have the money, gift him some. Like others have said, if he feels better calling it a loan, call it that,… Read more »

bon
bon
8 years ago

I agree with getagrip above – if you are able – I think you should talk to him, and offer to pay for rent for 1-2 months. I tried to put myself in your situation and this is what I would do. Talk to him first, because he may have a better idea for how you can help him. (using your address as a mailing address for resumes or job applications?) After a couple weeks and he’s settled, maybe see if he would like your help in any other ways (advice, referrals to GRS, etc.) What is he good at?… Read more »

Nancy L.
Nancy L.
8 years ago

Having had friends who hit financial trouble despite doing everything that this and other PF blogs recommend, I totally understand wanting to help out. I agree with the earlier advice that you should go into this considering whatever assistance you provide to be a gift, not a loan. I would also clarify that with your friend, because he may–especially if he is responsible and cares about his situation–feel incredibly guilty if he is not in a position to repay you, and that could affect your relationship. (Many people who can’t repay loans avoid the person they owe rather than tell… Read more »

Robert Zaleski
Robert Zaleski
8 years ago

It’s a tough call, and it really comes down to how well you know this guy and how motivated he is. I’ve tried to help a few people, and it went pretty badly just giving them money. I also loaned my brother-in-law money to buy my car, and he’s definitely a go getter, and it helped him improve his situation. I just feel you’re enabling slothfulness and making things worse, not better, if he’s not doing much. And if you don’t see him, don’t know what leads he’s following up on, it’s hard. Also, there have been scams, so get… Read more »

Jen
Jen
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Zaleski

Well, speaking as a quieter, shy sort of person in real life, I can tell you how someone can get 3 jobs while someone else doesn’t! I’ve at least managed to get over it and don’t have problems with interviews.

But someone who is a little awkward or not as forthcoming during an interview? When there are 30-300 other people in line for a job, employers are less likely to find out that the quieter, less memorable in an interview person might in fact be one of the more responsible and useful employees they could hire!

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Zaleski

I would just remind you that there are in fact, many more people in this country than there are jobs, period. I have a degreed twenty two year old son who cannot get a job mowing lawns. as menioned elsewhere, he has managed to cobble in some income-but not enough to live on his own and he would be homeless if I did not have room for him.

Sharon
Sharon
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Zaleski

Those help wanted signs don’t actually mean that jobs are currently available. Many places will take applications even when they’re not hiring, just so that they have a big stack of applications to choose from if/when they do decide they need another employee.

I saw a big sign at Hobby Lobby the other day saying “Now taking applications! $12 an hour plus benefits for full time!” Sounded great, I thought, until I saw the fine print at the bottom of the sign…yeah, they’re not actually hiring right now.

Grace
Grace
8 years ago

It will be difficult going the Craigslist route. While I love the thought behind it, very few people will be accommodating enough to allow a short term renter with no income. The owner will not only have to look for another renter in a few months, but he/she may also wonder if your friend will move out in time. (Keep in mind the owner does not know your friend at all.) I would help look for places that provide room in exchange for tasks around the property in the meantime. Or maybe pay for room at an extended stay place.

Becky Blanton
Becky Blanton
8 years ago

I am a 56 year old woman. At age 50 I was homeless for 18 months. NO addiction issues at all, just poor decision making. I worked a minimum wage job the entire time (40 hours a week) and bought and lived in a used ($750) van. I didn’t make enough to afford a security deposit, rent and utilities after paying for food, gas, a storage unit and doggie day care for my Rottweiler and cat. That took finding a job in a different state at higher wages. The thing is, there ARE jobs out there, albeit at McDonalds and… Read more »

Evan
Evan
8 years ago
Reply to  Becky Blanton

Thank you Becky, I’m grateful for your response. Indeed he said the shelters are not safe enough to stay in, and the sleeping bag he had is what he used (he also found a mentor of sorts). But for now, I did put him up in a hotel for the next few weeks. It’s Christmas! He says he has heard once you are on the streets it is very hard to get out of it, I’m glad to hear at least one person has here. He has no drivers license so a car isn’t practical. He is in Phoenix so… Read more »

Heather
Heather
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

It has been cold in Phoenix this week – temps around freezing overnight. (There are freeze warnings because desert plants need special care when it gets that cold.) I don’t know where you put him up, but there are a few restaurants around where I live (east of the city) that are looking for kitchen help and busboys. If he has a bike, he could take the light rail and then bike… I can go and see if those places still are hiring, if you want. JD, you can give the OP my e-mail address if he’d like to contact… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

Evan, thanks for starting this discussion and thanks for chiming in with details. It seems a lot of people missed the facts that you are in Canada and your friend is in Phoenix. That really does affect what you can contemplate in terms of help. Since your friend doesn’t drive, but apparently has a good work history, maybe you could discuss with him which city with decent public transit (there are a few!) he might want to move to, in order to look for work. Phoenix is … not exactly prospering. San Diego might be better. Then you might be… Read more »

Julie
Julie
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

I have read one or two blogs in my life and I am compelled to answer yours. Honestly, I decided to read the blog and look into others for my own personal reasons and situations. The economy is wretched. People, good people, are in places they never dreamed of nor should be… I am included. Regardless, I looked over most the comments. I never read one mention on his trade and what he was doing prior to losing his job. I grew up in Arizona (lived in Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona) though I have recently relocated to Alaska. I know… Read more »

KB
KB
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

The housing situation is going to be sketchy at best, I think that’s a given. Without reading every comment i’m not sure if this has been said, but a practical way to help is buy him a box at a local FedEx store. I’ve had one for years, paying just $20 a month for a small box. What this does is provide a STABLE street address (no one has to know it’s a FedEx store), regardless of how many times he has to change his physical location or where that might be. This would be critical both for job search… Read more »

Ariel
Ariel
8 years ago

I guess it depends on the person. I wouldn’t give a plug nickel to one of my brothers, while another I would go hundreds of miles out of my way to help. Presently we have two houseguests- one a 22 y.o. who’s family fell apart leaving her to deal with sudden independence and untreated epilepsy. We’ve gotten her set up with social services, including vocational rehabilitation and medical care. The goal is her own place. The other is one of my adult children, who suffers from schizotypal disorder. He comes with a 90 pound dog. The dog’s dear, buy my… Read more »

D. J.
D. J.
1 year ago
Reply to  Ariel

My sister and I are both on SSI disability and I have had to pay utilities with a credit card for many years now. A woman in our apartment complex got evicted after her husband died and she had been ill in the hospital. It had snowed and was cold. We did not really know her, but took her in. She got a bedroom and emptied all her belongings intoour house. We drove her around (her son had taken her car) and got her signed up for various entitlements such as VA, SSI, and food stamps. She also had a… Read more »

Terry
Terry
8 years ago

In the book “Pay it Forward,” the young protagonist, Trevor, gave an umemployed guy, Jerry, money so that he could buy shoes to apply for a job.

While it didn’t work out the way Trevor had planned, later Jerry wound up saving the life a woman who was going to commit suicide.

We may not be able to do everything to help an unemployed friend, but we can do something. And that one act of kindness can have a ripple effect.

http://carveoutyourniche.blogspot.com/2011/12/are-you-big-enough-to-pay-it-forward.html

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

I agree with most of the advice above. Do your best first of all to find out if there are mental health issues. It can be that someone who has been holding it together for a while can go over the line into a diagnosable (and treatable) condition. Without knowing/addressing that, it’s hard to make other changes.

But after that, looking into ways to provide a month or two of transitional help could well get the person back on his feet.

babysteps
babysteps
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

in this economy, folks can go from middle class to homeless rather quickly. As a volunteer, I help review grants applications from basic-needs charities, and several food pantries and ‘community closet’ agencies have seen new clients who used to be donors. That said, a huge proportion of long term homeless have mental health and/or addiction issues. Not as widespread in short-term homeless. Try to talk in person – the library or a church might accept an incoming call, and if there are any payphones left some accept incoming calls, your friend can email you a time & phone number. You… Read more »

Kelly
Kelly
8 years ago

We just went through a similar situation with a friend. My advice: make sure you have the full picture before you offer any monetary help. We had a friend who is in the National Guard and was going to be deployed for a secnd time. He went AWOL and ended up in a VA hospital in our town to be treated for depression, anxiety, and alcohol treatment. After completing that program, he was eligible for a program for those at risk of being homeless. After that program ended, we offered to let him rent a room in our house for… Read more »

Evan
Evan
8 years ago

Thanks all. To clarify a few things, I have been in contact via phone, MSN, and email and no, it’s not a scam. The unemployment checks ran out a long time ago and I knew this was coming, but still was a shock when I got the email. I always thought he’d pull through somehow or his family would be able to provide a place (they did as much as they could). I live in Canada, and my friend doesn’t have a passport so him coming here isn’t really an option (although we could work on getting him one). My… Read more »

Deanne
Deanne
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

Since you mentioned that he hurt his back pretty badly, it may not be a bad idea for him to look into SSI (disability benefits if it’s bad enough that he can’t work) or SSDI (disability insurance payouts based on federal money previously taken out of his paychecks – this depends on how much he has worked and how long ago he last worked). A legal aid organization could help him figure out if he qualifies (and it’s free since he has no income). A quick search turned up a legal aid organization in Phoenix that he can check out.… Read more »

Nathan Rice
Nathan Rice
8 years ago

So, I should say first off that my wife and I were in this situation ourselves not long ago … we were actually the homeless ones 🙂 It’s important to remember that helping someone who won’t help themselves is bad news. We had friends that were kind enough to let us live with them for 6 months while we got back on our feet. I felt like I owed it to them to be extremely open with our financial situation throughout the process. When I started working again, I went back and paid them rent for time we first moved… Read more »

Well Heeled Blog
Well Heeled Blog
8 years ago

I’d do 3 things: 1. Get him (or send him money to get him) a prepaid cell phone with lots of minutes. That way he has a way to stay in touch and communicate with family and prospective employers. 2. Get a gym membership like another commenter suggested.Preferably a 24-hour place. This means shower is always accessible. 3. Send him a couple hundred bucks as a gift to tide him over. Other things would depend on how close I am with this person, but if he is a childhood friend, no addiction problems, and is struggling, I’d like to think… Read more »

Carrie Hetu
Carrie Hetu
8 years ago

I think it is human nature to want to help and “fix” however I will say this, he is lucky for one to be only himself and 2 in a warmer state. This is a hard call with so many struggling still. I know for my family, we have faced the thoughts every single month for 2 years now if we will add to the list of homeless families this month, or next…… We have never had any help, we don’t get governement assistance…….. we are a family of five living off of 1300 and sometimes less a month……….it can… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

What about flying down for a long weekend and checking out the situation for yourself? You could go with him to meet the counselor. You could do some research before you go about opportunities in the area for help/assistance. While you are there, he can stay with you at a hotel. I understand wanting to send money, but I think it is a short term solution to a bigger problem. I think to truly help the friend will take more than money.

Miser+Mom
Miser+Mom
8 years ago

Three years ago, an unemployed friend of mine had massive medical problems at the same time his wife got laid off. I sent him a large check, and wrote that we could argue later whether it was a gift or a loan, but that I was considering it a gift. I told him I wanted him to have breathing space so he didn’t have to make bad financial decisions. Then I forgot all about it. Fast forward two years. He published a book, got a settlement from the insurance company, and out-of-the-blue I got my money back. I wouldn’t have… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

Evan doesn’t say how close he is to this friend, how well they have kept in touch over the years, how frequently they have seen one another. That makes a difference in the approach. Evan says that his friend has always been able to find a job until recently. What type of work? When he mentions “retail” is that the type of work his friend has done, or did his friend “always” have a higher paying, different sort of job but is having a tough time in the current job market? When you mention “mental health issues” that is worth… Read more »

phil
phil
8 years ago

I believe hiyaE, or comment #9, is the only person that has provided real advice apart from whether or not to send money, so I would like to expand on that advice. I’m going to go with the assumption that He is a close friend for whom you would do a lot, and that you have some means to help. 1. If this is a close friend, as you suggest, then my first thought is to see if he would be willing to come stay with you and then go from there about getting him a job and helping him… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

I’ve known people…acquaintances, not really friends…who were having a hard time, essentially about to become homeless. 2 separate examples come to mind, and both times I offered to let them move in with me until they get on their feet. One took me up on it; one didn’t. I’m probably more inclined to do this than most because someone I knew…not all that well at the time, but we became very close friends…once let me sleep on his couch while I was moving to a new town, and hadn’t found a job yet. I ended up living there for about… Read more »

Minal
Minal
8 years ago

I think you just need to ask yourself, “Why do you want money and what would you like to achieve with it?” If it’s to lead a healthy, secure life and support the people you love in their efforts to do so, then it makes sense to give (not lend) money to your friend. Your using your money in line with you values. The only catch is that you have to really know your inner motivation. If it’s guilt over your financial security, then you’ll just end up resenting your friend and making it more of an IOU. But if… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago

Yes. A friend of mine ended up homeless. She actually had a job at the time, just not one that paid well, and when a bad relationship went worse, she needed to get out. She spent a couple of nights couch-surfing and then was living in her car. She was also struggling with depression at the time (not surprising) and in an overall bad place. I sent her 1200 – enough to rent a room in someone’s house for several months – and also had groceries delivered to her. This was not enough money to put me into a financial… Read more »

Barb
Barb
8 years ago

Without having read all the comments let me say this: Being homelss in todays economy may have nothing to do with ability, education, drive, drugs or anything else. People who are not aware of that fact need to be aware, and quickly. I am an educated woman who has been unable to find a job since 2006, with an educated unemloyeed son. for tunately we have been able to start a couple businesses, and I was able to access social security as well. Otherwise we would be one of “those” people. In other worlds, he probably really does want a… Read more »

Johanna
Johanna
8 years ago

Your friend knows his situation better than you do. So I’d start by asking him what I could do that would be most helpful – whether that be money or other “stuff,” logistical support (like tracking down apartment or job leads for him if he doesn’t have reliable internet access), or moral support.

valleycat1
valleycat1
8 years ago
Reply to  Johanna

LOL Johanna – I just posted basically the same advice @ #67, before I read past the first few replies!

Marjorie
Marjorie
8 years ago

Not a suggestion of any sort, because this isn’t for everyone nor would it fit every situation, but this post reminded me of a CBC radio show I listened to last weekend. The theme of the episode was hospitality. There was a segment about a woman in Calgary who invited a homeless man to stay with her family. The whole episode was very heartwarming. It’s available here: http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/episode/2011/12/04/hospitality-1/.

Kandace
Kandace
8 years ago

As I’ve read through the comments and the post, there wasn’t much mention of this person’s family. Are they willing to help out? I think family should help out first, then friends. If family has shut the door on giving help it may mean there are deeper issues than what have been disclosed.

That being said, I have a friend who is single mother of three boys. She’s been underemployed for 2.5 years. Each year at this time I gladly send her a check for what I can and know it will be used well.

Evan
Evan
8 years ago
Reply to  Kandace
To clarify this, he is an orphan, and his remaning family has done a lot over the last 2 years to provide help but have done all they could as they are in dire straights themselves. They have truly done as much as they could.
Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

That always makes me more inclined to help – I have my parents & brother to fall back on, if worst came to worst, and everyone needs that kind of safety net – but not everyone has it.

Jim
Jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Evan

Forgive me for offering an opinion without having ALL your friend’s facts. I infer that he is single. IF so, I would ask my family for a corner in closet, living room, or hallway to sleep in. The money you send him lasts longner and helps his only family with basics (especially if they are in dire need). He could make himself scarce as much as possible while going out to offer his services doing odd jobs. It seems counter productive to get a motel room. My brothers would be welcome to live with me as long a needed, IF… Read more »

Joe+G
Joe+G
8 years ago

In most cases, I recommend a gift that directly impacts his situation for the good:

* A calling card or prepaid phone
* A prepaid bus/subway pass
* Gift card specifically from gas or food chain
* Prepaying housing

But it really depends on what he needs.

Danielle
Danielle
8 years ago

My uncle became homeless several years back, most likely as a result of mental illness (which in turn made it difficult for him to keep jobs in the past). My mom, his sister, didn’t want to let him move in with us, because of his mental illness/difficult personality. So instead she has helped him get access to social services, and he is now living in a halfway-house type of place funded by the city. She also gives him my dad’s used clothes, has paid for some of his therapy, and helped get him a lawyer when the city wanted to… Read more »

olga
olga
8 years ago

I agree with your choice of lending a helping hand to friends or other random people rather than charities. Why is it such a big deal to announce to all that you donate to such and such? Everybody has different reasons, opinions and beliefs, whom to help and how. As for this case (and I haven’t read a single comment yet) – if it’s the first time and you believe in your heart that friend is doing all possible to solve the situation and most likely will solve it (a.k.a. not afraid to take a “dirty” job for pennies and… Read more »

K-ro
K-ro
8 years ago

My young-adult son seems to collect homeless friends like other kids collect toy cars. We currently have had one friend living with us since May 2010 – his parents got into trouble with drugs and lost everything. The entire family of 5 was living with 2 grandparents, 2 aunts and 1 uncle (total of 10 in the house). There was some conflict between this kid and an aunt (with that many people how could there NOT be conflict?!) and he ended up on our doorstep. He was still in high school and he needed a place within bus route or… Read more »

Melinda
Melinda
8 years ago

I’m assuming your relationship with this person is such that you know his story to be true.I would concentrate my efforts on what helps him land his next job: 1) Access to a computer to fill out job applications and receive emails is top priority 2) Must have transportation – purchase bus pass, help with car insurance, gas card, etc. 3) Access to cell phone with pre-paid minutes, or voice mail (Set up Skype phone number that leaves messages on computer – this can be cheaper than a cell) 4) Everyone needs pocket change to pay for parking meters, copying… Read more »

thefrugallery
thefrugallery
8 years ago

Could you buy him a bus ticket to the city you live in? Let him stay with you for awhile until he can get on his feet. I would be hesitant to send him cash because you just never know what it’s being used for. If he is living with you, you will be able to help him with job applications, saving money, etc. There’s so much more you can do if he is close by.

Johanna
Johanna
8 years ago
Reply to  thefrugallery

What are you so afraid he’d use the money for that would make you hesitant to give cash? If there’s a specific reason to believe he has an illness or addiction that would prevent him from acting in his own best interest, that’s one thing. But in general, I don’t think poor people are any less able to manage their own money than anyone else.

PawPrint
PawPrint
8 years ago
Reply to  thefrugallery

I believe that Evan said he lives in Canada and his homeless friend lives in Phoenix and has no passport.

james
james
8 years ago

I live this situation every day. 2 of my siblings and my father are on the brink of being destitute. A result of both internal and external factors causing a perfect storm – failed/abusive marriages, chronic illness, living in a 3rd world country with a failed economy (think US sub-prime crisis to the power of 10). I have lent and lent and lent. I found a box of western union receipts when I was cleaning the other day and I couldn’t believe how much money I’ve given away. The situation brought me close to financial ruin when I lost my… Read more »

JCC
JCC
8 years ago

I want to think more about my reply (not that anyone’s waiting for it, ha ha), but one thing immediately gave me pause: that the LW says that he (LW) is a “softie”. I would explore every facet of what’s going on with the friend – is he now an addict, or mentally ill, what’s the story there – before giving anything. It might not be coincidental that the friend chose to tell LW about this, know what I mean?

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  JCC

JCC, the LW (Evan) didn’t say he was a “softie”; J.D. did, referring to himself (J.D.).

valleycat1
valleycat1
8 years ago

Have you asked your friend what he needs most and what form of help he’d be comfortable accepting from you? Treat him like an adult who needs help instead of a charity case.

Then, if he says his first priority is a roof over his head & shelters aren’t available to him, then you could get him an inexpensive hotel room for the short term and offer to help toward an apartment/room cost until he gets a job & the first paycheck. If he’s starving, send him some cash for food.

Mouse+Meets+Turtle
Mouse+Meets+Turtle
8 years ago

I don’t have any specific advice for Evan but I thought I’d put my experience out there for others who may be in similar situations. My dad is somewhat homeless. He does have a small, old motorhome he inherited from his parents. He has no job, ran out of unemployment, and suffers from addiction and severe depression. He is terrible at handling money. A big part of me knows he is the only person to blame for his circumstances but I also know how difficult his battle against depression has been. I won’t abandon him but I won’t fuel his… Read more »

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago

Addicts are really difficult, but it sounds like you’ve worked out the best possible solution with your dad.

KSoniat
KSoniat
8 years ago

We have acutally had a few friends in need of help over the last few years. Mostly ones in the midst of a divorce – where they cannot support two households in this economy. We have had friends stay in our guest room for a few months. We have a friend staying in my father-in-laws house after he had to be put into an assisted living center. The father-in-law was disturbed at the thought of selling the house – and having someone in it keeps it maintained and protected. We have another friend who was waiting for payment from contract… Read more »

wonko
wonko
8 years ago

I work. I live below my income. I save. I am blessed. I am lucky. My friends, I would go to the grave for. My heart breaks for anyone that doesn’t have at least one or two friends like that.

Personal Finance is a great way to live the life you want to live, it is not a life of itself.

babysteps
babysteps
8 years ago

One other thought – is there a reason that your friend wants to stay specifically in Phoenix? If staying in Phoenix isn’t critical, you might ask if he’s open to relocating to an area with lower unemployment than Phoenix (perhaps not right now – up to you, it may make more sense to wait until he’s stabilized a little). You could help with finding a job & gifting bus fare to get him to a new city, if that option is attractive to your friend. BLS says the unemployment rate was 8.1% in Oct in Phoenix, lower than the 8.6%… Read more »

paula
paula
8 years ago
Reply to  babysteps

Moving cost money. If the unemployment has run out and he is homeless there is no money to move.

That is likely not a viable option.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
8 years ago

I have never actually been homeless but I remember being on the abyss of despair and at that time my brother let me stay at his place for a few cold winter weeks. Eventually I found a roommate to move with, got a job and went back to school, and now i make a living. I think physical support is very important when you’re vulnerable. But I also remember that I was extremely depressed, confused, and out of good ideas, and that it was great to have a therapist to talk to, and that made the difference between life and… Read more »

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Mental memory problems can be disabling, and being “quick to anger” is often a symptom of untreated depression.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

It is interesting that this is today’s post as this morning while stopping at DD I gave a mentally ill, homeless woman, a ride from DD to another spot that she likes hanging out at. I also got her a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. She always asks me to buy her cigarettes and since I worked in mental health I understand that she is basically self medicating with the nicotine but I just can’t do it. I’m sure all the other professionals at Dunkin thought I was crazy for welcoming a homeless, mentally ill woman into my car. But… Read more »

Bareheadedwoman
Bareheadedwoman
8 years ago

I think it’s just lovely that you are trying to help with your heart and not just your head. Went through this process last year with an elderly neighbor when she and her mentally challenged adult son (an absolute sweetheart, quiet boy, who does everything he can to take care of his mother, but is a 30 year old with an iq of about 60) lost their rent controlled apartment. Although she had been a staple of the neighborhood (been here 30+ years) once she lost her house, no one on the block but my house would even give her… Read more »

Splendor
Splendor
8 years ago

I volunteer at a homeless shelter for women and see this every day – people who are situationally homeless due to job loss. Have him get in contact with Salvation Army immediately. Many shelters offer transitional housing, rent assistance and even job assistance. If I had the means I would wire him some money to care for his basic needs and research organizations nearby that could help. I have had a homeless friend stay with me and it wasn’t easy but I believe in sowing seeds because I never know when one of my children may need a helping hand… Read more »

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