Blog post: Counsel offered to a 70 year old woman currently on a trajectory into homelessness

These are posts made on Nextdoor after Carolyn reached out to the neighborhood for help as her life is collapsing and she’s facing having to move out of her 20 year apartment, with no resources to find or to support another place to live in these times.
I think it would be helpful to more people if I posted the messages I wrote to Carolyn with suggestions for how to prepare for becoming homeless. This is more common among our generation than anyone wants to believe. So sharing what I’ve learned through my journey into homelessness might help someone reading this to figure their way through.
So here’s the first one, just posting mine in reply to hers, not posting her replies to me for reasons of confidentiality:
Linda Witt-King ,
Hi Carolyn, I’m sorry to hear that [Mercy House cannot help because they are out of funds]. And so, let’s look at the bright side – Mercy House’s process requires more independence in terms of reliable transportation, so let’s keep looking and work through each of the deficiencies.
Another group I thought of was Grandma’s House of Hope…as a transition measure. They have different homes that are set up as group homes where you share a room with one or two others, depending on how it’s arranged. Last time I spoke with them about another woman I was helping several years ago, they required $500 a month and that included room and board. If they have room available, it might be something to step to as you move out while you get your bearings and see whatever’s next for you.
Just a word about all the suggestions that came up on your thread, and the response I got from Jenifer when I replied to her earlier email – As I read through all the suggestions that were being posted, I could see the potential for hurt feelings by those who really have no idea what you’re dealing with and they
form their expectations of how you should respond out that ignorance. And yes, it can be distracting and irritating.
I remember when I was preparing to become homeless and descending into the state of homelessness, how people’s perceptions were strangely uncomprehending of what that actually means, and they couldn’t understand why all the things they were suggesting for me to pursue were totally out of my reality. I ended up spinning a whole lot of wheels unnecessarily out of trying to honor and follow-through on everyone’s suggestions.
And I see that also in what people are saying now and how you are trying to figure this out amid a lot of well-meaning input that doesn’t particularly apply.
Here’s a couple of things you need to do right now while you’re still in your home:
— Open a mail box and start having your mail re-directed to your new business address. It will cost probably about $20 a month or so in a store front, but it’s worth it over a P.O. box because it gives you a legitimate street address. And keep in mind that other carriers do not deliver mail or packages to USPS.
  • Consider the $20 a month a necessary part of your rent. It will save countless complications that arise out of moving around a lot. I moved my situation thirteen times in the year and nineteen days that I was homeless, so my mailbox service provided an anchor around which I operated as a senior woman who was temporarily homeless.
— I heard you say that you have a 1988 Toyota small car that doesn’t work very well. It would be great if you could get into some kind of a mini-van conversion that you can sleep in. My Ford Expedition was a life saver in that regard. If you don’t have any other credit lines available, you might see if one of those used car dealers could make a deal, and consider the car payment as your rent.
  • Or, if it becomes necessary to eliminate the loan payments being deducted from your Social Security payment, you might consider changing your bank account and wiping out the rent payments you charged to your credit line – at least you’ll avoid having them take it out of your account so that you retain a small bit of autonomy over your limited income.
  • You’ll have no need for a credit rating after you move out of your apartment. You are now entering into a whole different class of tenant-hopeful because you no longer qualify for any kind of a rental in the open market. Actually, you haven’t qualified for a long time, it’s just now catching up with you.
  • So now is the time you re-trench, make your preparations to live out of your vehicle and hope that Mercy House receives a new wave of funding and that you are close to the front of the line when they do. Their vetting and approval of your case will give you much more credibility with prospective landlords than will any credit rating you’ve maintained…at least when it comes to housing…but actually, any form of new credit is out of your reach without some sort of windfall blessing that will lift you out of the doldrums you presently find yourself in. If that were to happen, then you won’t need credit anyway, so maximize using what credit line you may have now to get yourself situated to survive temporarily while living out of a vehicle that is suitable for that purpose.
  • If you’re going to do that, change bank accounts, I mean, you need to do it right away so that Social Security has time to re-direct this next payment coming up on the 3rd. I think they need like two weeks advanced notice to change your bank.
— Get yourself a small storage unit and identify what you’ll need to prepare and store food for yourself, [protecting everything you store in there from rats and bugs] and provide a place for you to store your clothing in between laundry and other personal items you want to keep with you. You need it to be close by because you’ll be going there several times a week as you learn to rearrange your lifestyle and navigate this new leg of your journey.
  • If what you have coming in is only $800 a month plus food stamps, you’ll need to maximize every bit of that. That’s why I’m suggesting that it might be a good idea for you to walk away from those credit charges. But that’s just looking at the surface level of your situation as you’ve presented it. You’ll know if it’s the right thing to do for you or not.
Your rent and utilities will now be:
–A car payment, registration, insurance and roadside service for a vehicle that you can sleep in and camp in, prepare food in, and have a toilet of some configuration inside.
  • I went to Walmart up in Brea/Yorba Linda where they allowed us to park overnight to sleep, [the only Walmart in Orange County that did that, by the way] …and I bought a round cooler just big enough for me to sit on, a smaller bucket that served as the liner and a container for my pee inside, and I bought a camping toilet seat, and used that setup inside my truck.
  • I had – and still have – a butane stove, and a cooler that served to keep a few things cold for a little while. But what is really needed to make it work is someplace with a freezer where you can store frozen cold blocks that you can go to and replace every other day.  Plastic almond butter jars work great for that purpose.
— A storage unit close by that you can operate out of.
— A pre-paid cell phone with internet connection that serves as a modem for your laptop computer.
  • I recommend T-Mobile. After I was on pre-paid for two years they let me have a regular account without a credit check, and it was less expensive than the prepaid plan. You might get one without a credit check too right away. It’s $60 a month, [including taxes and fees] for unlimited phone, internet and text. This is a necessity. They’ll have a deal on a free phone with a 90 day commitment and these days, your phone can act as a modem or hot spot for your laptop.
  • Get some kind of device that allows you to re-charge your phone and whatever else electronics you will have with you. I have a rechargeable 12 volt battery connected to a 400 watt inverter. That saved me many, many times during that year.
  • [do you have a laptop computer? or a desk top? – you’ll need to get a laptop for being on the road]

— Go over to Someone Cares Soup Kitchen on 19th street around Pomona, as I recall, and start to take your meals there every day, just stay away from the sweets and desserts and bread if you care about your health. Show up radiating gratitude for everything and everyone who showed up there to serve you. That’s essential. Get to know the other seniors who frequent there. If you meet Eileen and Robert Louis Stevenson, tell them I send my love.

Here’s the link for Grandmas House of Hope and their online application for housing: https://grandmashouseofhope.org/programs/transitional-housing-program/ Okay? I’m holding you in radiant light as you enter into this next great adventure in your life. Many blessings, Linda Witt-King

Next… You need to have your own phone. When you’re homeless that is your lifeline, you need to maximize its functionality. I’m really emphasizing this. the government-issued free phone does not meet your needs. I highly recommend T-Mobile, They have several stores around and their sales people are very well trained and nearly always excellent. You get good value for your money and they have great service coverage.
Yes, about Fairview – I’m engaging with that issue on my soon-to-be published website version 2.0. Let’s see how quickly we can make that facility available. There’s no reason why we can’t. It’s the only thing that makes any sense at all.
In the meantime, you need to prepare to be homeless. I looked on craigslist and saw this: https://orangecounty.craigslist.org/cto/d/dodge-caravan-mini-conversion/6671788467.html $2400 – unobtrusive, looks normal and you can sleep in it. It’ll take about $3,000 to buy it, register and insure it with AAA – which I also recommend.
On your existing line of credit, can you come up with $3,000 worth of credit? even $4,000 would be better so that you can properly prepare before you are actually leaving your current home. If you could it might become a reason to stick with your bank instead of walking away.
Let’s take it one step at a time. We need to provide for something you can move into and not be on the street. Then look into the program by the State that gives up to $1,500 when you turn in an old car that’s still driveable onto the junkyard lot where your transaction and your payment will be processed. If the program is still being funded, that’s how you will dispose of your existing vehicle and get some cash out of it.

And next… If you have a credit line with a credit union, then I recommend that tomorrow you arrange to take out $4,000, go buy that mini-van that I showed you and start to prepare to live out of it for the foreseeable future.

 

I hear what you’re saying about not wanting to walk away from your credit, and that’s fine. – especially if you can use it to position yourself as you move into this state of being homeless. Don’t think about it, just go do it. You’ll thank me later no matter how it turns out. You need to provide for your own autonomy while you’re still in a position to do so. It’s too late if you wait until after you are no longer homed.

Part of that preparation that you need to place your focus on is to get yourself a proper phone, but first things first. Go get that mini-van right away. It’s a great deal and exactly what you need for your next step. Okay? by this time tomorrow I want to hear about your success in getting into that van or something better. Have a blessed night,
Last and final post giving counsel to Carolyn:

Okay Carolyn, I’m going to speak very plainly here. I will try to be as brief as I can but I will say whatever needs to be said to relate key points of information that you need to heed right now – starting today.

 

First, you are wasting precious time pursuing the illusion that you need a job and that the job you need is out there if you can just work hard enough to find it, then engage with it and trust that the job is going to carry you through.
You do not need a job, which is a good thing because there are no life-sustaining jobs to be had…not for 70 year old women like you and me.
Therefore, if you are to survive or even thrive as you enter this next phase of your life, you will have to shift your perception away from that false idea.
Should you fail to shift your perception AND begin to take necessary measures to take care of yourself after you’ve moved out of your apartment, by this time next month you will be on the street, quite literally on the street.
If your existing car holds up you may at least have transportation around town for awhile, but it will eventually fail altogether and you will be stranded. You will join the thousands of other seniors, men and women who are wandering the streets with no place to sleep or go to the bathroom or take care of themselves…unless you prepare ahead of time to meet the challenge head on.
Those are the people you are looking at right now as ‘low life’. At one point in their lives they were where you are today, having to make decisions that go against everything you ever learned and lived by your whole life. They couldn’t choose differently for themselves and adapt to their present circumstances so there they are.
And here you are, on the precipice of choice.
You have one remaining asset in your whole life and that’s what is left on that credit line, and you have enough money coming in to take care of everything if you live frugally – except for rent. Therefore, you must leverage that credit line and your monthly income to create a vehicle that you can live in and out of and continue to appear to be functioning normally in your community.
Your old 88 junker is not going to cut it. It’s useless and a waste of money to put anything more into it. To survive while you are homeless, you need a different car like the one I showed you on Craigslist.
Also, you need a different attitude than the one you are clinging to. You have a chip on your shoulder that does not serve you. That initial resistant response to whatever shows up will keep you in poverty as it has all your life and it will take you to a lonely and miserable grave hopefully sooner than later. It’s no fun living homelessly, I can tell you that from personal experience.
I recognize your resistant attitude because I also had that same resistance to everything, including love like you’re expressing. I’ve recognized that same attitude in every single homeless person I’ve encountered too. It was only through Grace that Spirit spoke to me and gave me instructions on how to release my prisoners – and I had many – and how to bring myself out of the prison that was of my own making.
Two directives I was given, and here they are:
First, REMOVE ALL RESISTANCE TO WHAT IS. That one decision will simplify your life enormously and allow you to begin to relax.
Second, TRUST THAT ALL IS OCCURRING IN DIVINE RIGHT TIMING AND THAT ALL YOUR NEEDS ARE BEING MET.
When you can let go of the fear that’s keeping you immobilized and embrace those two directives and live by them every single day, every waking moment, and express gratitude for every encounter and every turn of events, your life will begin to turn around.
You have less than two weeks before you have to move out of your apartment. I encourage you to make the best of every single moment to prepare for your next life whichever way you choose to go.