Monday, February 2, 2009

Getting Help When Help Is Needed

Some people are still doing fine in this economy, many others, not so well. Now I am not a fan of government help whether it be Welfare, or other handout programs. Once people get into the food stamps, Section 8 housing, AFDC, and other "here let us help make you poorer" government programs, they tend to spiral down instead of up. That being said, there are occasions when you hit rock bottom and need some kind of help. The trick is to know what kind of help is available, take what you need but not more than you need, and work your way out of the desperate situation as quickly as possible. Here's where to find help:
  • Your first line of defense against financial disaster is friends and family. It should be difficult to take handouts and help from those closest to you, you don't want to get comfortable with this kind of situation, so make sure that the help you get from others (room, board, money, etc) is repaid in kind. You may not have money but can you wash their car, do yard work, clean the house, etc; this makes you a more welcome guest.
  • Check out community service agencies. The Salvation Army offers a number of services in our city--everything from free haircuts, free breakfast and lunch daily, and help with utility payments among other things. The Goodwill also offers a variety of service programs in addition to their thrift store.
  • Churches are another source of help, offering everything from free meals on a regular schedule to free clothing to occasional emergency housing options.
  • Veteran's Service Centers offer a number of services to help people through hard times such as rental assistance, training opportunities, help with food/clothing/utilities, etc. Many of these services are available no matter how many or how few years you served.
  • There will usually be one or more food banks in the town/city where you live so if you are hungry, by all means find out where they are and accept what they offer.
  • Food stamp programs have grown exponentially due to the great need. With documentation, signing up is relatively simple.
  • Homeless shelters are not the most pleasant places to stay but if that is your only option, it is warmer than sleeping outside. Generally other housing programs take quite a while to get into as waiting lists are long.
  • Unemployment is another source of income which you actually earned through being employed so sign up immediately if you find yourself unemployed (according to a recent article in the newspaper, it may take some time getting through to the service since phones and websites for the service have been overwhelmed).
  • Medical care can be found at community "free" clinics. As a last resort, hospital emergency rooms cannot refuse to treat you (and they usually have some sort of charity care program too). They can, however, make you wait for ages to be seen.
  • And then there are all of the federal and state welfare programs (many of which are available if you have dependant children): medical coupons, cash for families with children, disability payments, assistance with paying for child care, etc.

When you are desperate, especially if you have a family to take care of, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. On the other hand, if you are doing OK it is always a good idea to help those in need whenever possible.


  1. Shelters for the homeless may be few and further between and turn you away right at the door...I found this out last night trying to get someone placed. I finally got the individual a place for a few days with a Samaritan.

  2. Quite right. The shelters in our city are full every night. Apparently there is a system (get in line or something like that) to get in. Ditto for section 8 housing (usually a year wait), domestic violence shelters, transitional housing, etc. It is an option but not a guaranteed place to go.