Shrinking household

Here is the letter I just sent to friends and relatives.
If you are local I will have durable goods to give away that might be useful to GW-type folks. Also lots of books.
Prayers for my safety and well-being most gratefully received.

Dear People,

I am writing because you may be able to help me find ----
Job leads and/or training
---Affordable housing
-–Publishing contacts/expertise

In July 2022, I will become homeless when my savings run out. My social security stipend of $12,000/year only covers half of my living expenses. I have been paying for rent from savings. Only when quite destitute (less than $3000 in savings) am I allowed – under North Carolina state laws – to apply for SNAP food aid and to enroll in the Medicaid program.

Job leads and/or training
Get a job, you say? I did try. As for many others, the 2008 crash wiped out my retirement fund and destroyed my livelihood. As a data technician and technical writer, I was paid from university grants or Federal contracts. Both dried up after the crash.

As a non-driver, for me to get to on-site temp jobs has been nearly impossible.
Jobs in fast-food service and big-box retail are also mostly inaccessible.

Now remote tech writer jobs are being offered.
Catch-22: these jobs require 24-hour Internet access that I cannot afford until I have a job.

If you know of anyone who might employ me as a data steward, technical writer, creative writing editor, or any other work I can fulfill without a driver’s license, please let me know.
Part-time or intermittent contract work is just fine. 
One-offs are welcome, too.

If you know of an inexpensive refresher course for popular commercial office suites, please recommend it.
I moved to free Open Source software many years ago.

Affordable housing
For government-sponsored ‘affordable housing’ units, there is a two-year waiting time.
People are only allowed to stay in the Durham homeless shelter for two or three months.

Once I become eligible for Medicaid and SNAP, these benefits should allow me to pay up to half of my monthly SS stipend, up to $600, for rent and utilities.

–-If you know anyone who has living space to rent (in-home lodger, elder companion, roommate, trailer), please let me know ASAP.
–-If you know of anyone else seeking housing, perhaps I could join forces with them.

Publishing contacts/expertise
One hopeful thing: while unemployed, I have written and published 10 short stories in magazines such as New Maps and Into the Ruins. I’ve finished a four-volume fantasy novel titled Rogue Star and am now seeking a publisher.
–-If you know an editor of a publishing firm who can help place Rogue Star in the e-book-to-Print-on-Demand pipeline, please put us in contact with one another.
–-If you know how to set up a direct-to-reader subscription sales platform, please share a bit of your expertise. 

–-If you wish to contribute to my moving expenses / 2-yr. storage fund, I will send a thank-you gift of my short fiction and poetry: a PDF file of 4 stories and 24 poems.

I’m happy to answer any questions.
Thank you and very best wishes.

Ouch, I'm sorry to hear that. I will pray for you. I know there are people on here who are involved in publishing, so you might find helpful ideas from some of them.

Ken's picture

I can't imagine the stress you must be feeling right now. Reaching out to the GW community for suggestions and aid is a great idea! I'm guessing you are in Durham, SC from your comment on the shelter there? Are you healthy enough to get through a Certified Nursing Assistant program? Many insurers are more willing to pay for a CNA now because they want to avoid the far greater expense of a facility. No small number of my single, female friends in their 60's have gotten this certification in order to be reimbursed by insurance for elder care. Some were formerly gardeners, waitresses, housekeepers, etc. but all have found that elder care is both far more rewarding work and far easier physically. Obviously I don't know your circumstances, but perhaps it's an idea worth checking out?

In the Outside the Box category, have you ever considered going overseas? I have friends who lived near Boquete in the coffee and flower growing region of Panama, one in Pátzcuaro and another in Oaxaca, Mexico and a couple more in the highlands of Equador. All have the same thing to say: kind, generous people, great food, and affordable housing.

In Mexico, and South and Central America most of the working class people do not own individual automobiles and consider on-demand hot running water a luxury to be enjoyed but not expected. In other words, they are already living the life that most North Americans will be embracing whether they will or no in the coming decades. And here's the interesting part; they are already good at it... If I were forced to live on a fixed income that was inadequate in the US, I would seriously consider heading South. Just my two cents...

I'm so sorry to hear about your struggle.
Good luck on finding a job and shelter.

Are you sure you don't want to self-publish? Trad pub is loaded with gatekeepers expressly to keep out new and original voices.
Sadly, there are zero guarantees that what you self-publish will earn you any money either.

David Trammel's picture

Very sorry to hear your troubles but I'm glad you didn't wait like too many people do until the last minute to ask for help.

I don't know the best one to use (GofundMe, etc) but please set up a funding pledge site so we can get you started adapting. Then check with Greer and see if he'll let you post on the next month's Open Post.

I don't know how much help many of us can be since we're not near you but we'll try and give it our best.

Unless I am much mistaken the 'FundMe' type sites specifically forbid people asking for money for basic living expenses. They are designed to fund special projects as a one-off. I could ask for funds to publish my novel launch, perhaps and purchase the fonts I used when I did the book design. I will look at the rules and let you know what is feasible on that front. Thanks.

I am taking into consideration the other suggestions above, and will post my thoughts later--lots of replies to keep up with just now! Thanks evevryone for brainstorming with me. This whole process is so dehumanizing! It helps to think there is a community of spirit if not of flesh and blood and bone.

mountainmoma's picture

word the go fund me to be support for the books to get them published ( this requires internet) offer books e or print on level of support. Use some of that money for a used bicycle and maybe even bicycle trailer ( to transport you and books to libraries, bookstores, parks ? Places.... But also of course you can use to get food home from food bank giveaways

That is a side gig, so use that go fund me money to get the internet and bike transport and get a job with those resources

mountainmoma's picture

I am sorry to hear of your present situation. If you can realy find a job right now and all it takes is an internet connection, well, how much is that ? Maybe a few of us can float 2 months of it until you get paid. I mean, it seems like a small hurdle divided lets say 5 or 10 ways. And the payback for you would be great. Sounds like you have savings for the next 3 months rent ? That is 3 months to figure this out !

You do qualify for the federal low income internet stipend. And, you have the past more than a year, I am sorry you did not know about it. It was $50/month, and is now $30/month. -- but most areas, like mine and likely almost everywhere also make the internet suppliers offer a low income plan, so that when the 2 are combined, internet is free. Here is the link to the North carolina Broadband internet

Even though you would not qualify for food stamps, you can go to food banks, and should have been doing so the whole time unemployed, I am sorry resources are so hard to find in your area, reach out more ask at churches where thee giveaways are in your area, look up foodbank on the internet at your local library, etc... Looks like the link is here, , , and do not dispair on these things, there are going to be different local locations, call the food bank and likely someone can drop off or give you a ride ? I have given rides to a couple people the past year to get to a food bank.

You are not able to drive, can you use a bicycle ? Is the terrain in that area ammenable to it ?

The money in the bank issues is the same all over the country I think, I think it is limited to $2,000/month here, oh, you might have over 60 years extra allowance, I think that is here also, so that is why $3,000.

If you have not already done so, see if there is more to cut in your budget. Turn off the hot water heater ? I have been washing me and dishes in cold water and it is doable. Wash clothes in the bathtub or sink and do not go to laundrymat ? Do not buy groceries but go to the food bank and get creative ? Will you landlord let you pay the next 3 months rent in advance ? If so, then your savings are depleted and you can apply for food stamps BEFORE you get homeless ( many years ago I was told this trick by foodstamp intake worker, I ws unemployed for a brief time then, she said, pay your mortgage ahead the 4 or 5 months, whatever it was I had in savings, then have the bank print out a statement right then and come back. Stop paying medical insurance now concurrent with this.

Thanks for these links and tips. I will add them to my repertoire of coping.

mountainmoma's picture

Out here, in that income range from that kind of source, ie., social security, people pay much more than half on rent and utilities.

Because, what else do you realy need ? You get food from food banks (and maybe SNAP). Medical/prescriptions from Medicaid. there is now the free internet subsidy. You dont own a car. That leaves almost all your income for rent/utilites. Not an easy way to live, but better than being un-housed. So, someone with $1000 coming in may be paying $800 on rent/utilities.

SNAP is a funny thing because they dont always consider your real rent expenses, so you have to talk to them about wether you would realy qualify, I dont know what they do in NC. A hint. If you are self employed, I have heard they are very generous in what they "assume" your expenses to be. ANd they will use their assumed percentage rather than your real expenses if you prefer that. Out here it is 40% assumed expenses ! SO people get mad at this system because a self employed landscaper or other job getting food stamps who actually has quite a bit more income than a family with a wage earner working at a low level job who did not qualify due to the assumed expenses

mountainmoma's picture

craigslist in your area raleigh/durham shows that even with your budget if you dont find work, it is possible. I know it seems expensive, but actually even in the raleigh/durham the shared housing room rentals are alot less expensive than in my area. There seem to be a number of rooms for rent under 700 including utilites, of course alot of people are younger people or students, but other listings are older people looking for a roomate in their home.

That is great news.

If you dont mind going further afield, here was an interesting listing for a smaller town right over the VIrginia border. In any case, by watching these listings as you have 3 months, you will be able to find a room to rent.

here is the crazy cheap one
".... $389 Senior share house 50+ (clarksville, VA)
© craigslist - Map data © OpenStreetMap
laundry in bldg
off-street parking
private bath
private room
Being in 50s/60s and alone is no good
want to get out of the city before the real trouble?
perfect out of the city but still in range
on the virginia/north carolina border
beautiful small town
private room and ur own bath
includes rent, water, electric, wi-fi, use of washer/dryer
limited transport if you dont have a car
very flexible security deposit
this is for one person
must be non-smoker (or occasional) and animal lover..."

What an ad--right up to the last line. Too bad I am allergic to cats, dogs, most mammals. Maybe it's reptiles? Or llamas...? A person can dream!

This week and the next two I have a bit of a temp job for an academic scholar who needs a combination data array and sortable biblio-bank, so I will be putting in a few hours on that as I process all these leads provided here and from letter recipients. A bewilderment of possibilities is much better than paralyzed panic, so thanks again for the brainstorming efforts and tips on how to manage at an unfamiliar level.

Re: Work in the world
I do not know what I may be called on to do to survive. One does what one must, though, eh? Much of the work that the world wants done is what the 75% of extraverts thinks is half-pleasant. Extraverts get energized from constant interaction with people. I have never enjoyed working with either People or Things. Auto repair, grocery stores, retail, nursing, teaching—none of that has any rewarding aspect to me. For me it is hard work just to be around people all the time; so having to interact with them non-stop means double the amount of labor for one third the amount in wages. CNA work is not among the first things I would try. I doubt that anyone around here is likely to hire a CNA who does not drive a car or have a driver’s license.

Re: interner access & jobs
Getting a remote tech writing job is not ask and have—I am not THAT good! But doing the work these days will probably require Zoom, streaming videos and other bandwidth-gobbling activites which I simply cannot do on 3GB per month (the cheap option I have now)

Re: living abroad
Being alone in a country whose language I speak poorly would take more courage than I ever had before. Nevertheless, I have to consider all options. Thanks for the idea.

Re: transport
On bicycles, as I have gotten older I have more joint and balance issues and am reluctant to go with a two-wheeler. I was very much interested over the past 15 years in a velomobile with a tadpole orientation (deltas are more tippy) if I could have found one with serious grocery hauling cargo capacity and an electric assist. The vehicles do exist, but they are designed as toys for slim, young adventurers, not for old bones inside wide figures toting bulky eggs-on-board grocery loads. Another useful item to have if the world were produced to my specs would be a center-wheel barrow of the ancient Chinese design. Properly balanced, it can carry as much as a horse or mule and is quite maneuverable. One of those as a trailer to the tadpole would be awe inspiring and helpfully visible in traffic streams. Failing that config, I expect that I will have to rely on cadging rides. Maybe as gas prices go up, people will be glad to have a passenger paying into the fuel kitty once every two weeks or so?

Re Self-publishing:
No, I do not want to tackle it. I am not aiming for any of the Big 5%. I want to find a small independent firm that sees the enormous potential of doing an end-run around the Monstrous River that eats 80% of a book’s retail price and charges the shipping to the customers or the little guys doing the work. Direct to Reader sales means a 60% boost to the small firm’s cut that can be split with the author. Or going to the newly emergent subscriber platform with a specialized imprint has similar potential. Releasing my long major work as an E-book serial could provide almost a year’s worth of quality entertainment. If it ‘takes’ then a second release as Print-on-Demand would be the next stage. But I need someone to handle the myriad of details and the promotion to an established niche readership. The notion of Marketing to crowds of people in the world’s current condition of miedo permanente is beyond daunting. Here again, I have to go with what works, if any of it works at all.

Re: hot water
My house’s heating system extracts heat from the hot water in the tank and blows that into the house, so not ideal to turn it off, esp in winter. Also, the unit has a dishwasher, so I MUST use it at least once per week to prevent the gaskets from drying up and ruining the machine. Otherwise, I am responsible for replacing the whole unit!

Again, thanks for ALL tips & suggestions.

mountainmoma's picture

Craigs list had a 3 wheeled one for sale, with a built in basket yesterday in what I would consider your area, that is why I mentioned it. I never thought you would want a 2 wheeled bike to bring home shopping. New and fancy is too expensive of course. Used 3 wheeled you can afford, but you need an advocate with a vehicle to help bring one home.

If you do not have a personal friend support system in the area I do recomend reaching out to other support that you do not know. Even local churches you do not belong to. Usually there are volunteers that help with such things. There is out here. Many of the churches, but some "specialize" as it where. One does about 2 moves for people in the area a month, people not members of their church, the church members part of the moving group do it as volunteer work that they want to do, as there is great need. Just as yourself, there are many people who are a mix of too old, too disabled, too poor to hire the help, do not own a truck or do not drive. The other missions they often help with is the food distributions.

Also, we have non-church groups, non-profits who help coordinate and do things, help with paperwork, help with grant money, sometimes the grant money can be sued for keeping someone housed or utility bill paid or other need.

A large area like Durham/Raleigh would have some resources like this, but you need to reach out.

As far as internet, the low income subsidized/free internet is better than you are using right now. It has been expanded in terms of speed and capacity as the whole country went remote ! I would not have recomended it if it could not do Zoom meetings ! Low income households found themselves the last couple years having to have multiple children doing remote zoom school meetings at the same time, and often a parent doing work too. Internet essentials plus that I just upgraded to has speeds of 100/5Mbps download/upload, there is no limit of how much data is used a month. It does great at zoom meetings, as I said, that is what the low income remote school/work is using. So I would pay $30/month, but the Federal program pays them the $30/month, so it is free.

kma's picture


I'm so sorry that you are in the position you are in. I've had the bottom fall out a few times and can't rule out the possibility of it happening to me
again in the future, so I truly empathize with you.

I am also an introvert and have rustled up non-invasive side hustles over time on Upwork with a fair degree of success. There are a fair number of writing positions. There is a lot of noise to filter through and figure out who the good clients are, but if you'd like to connect about that you can message me via dreamwidth.

I went to your site, lots of pretty artwork. Did not see a messaging link. DOes one have to have an account to use that option?

I have been looking at two possibilities: a lodger in a home of a friend of a friend and renting a motorhome. There is so much more to know about motorhome living than I ever suspected. In your opinion is it even possible to pay month ly fees of 400 to 600 yet have electricity and water and some place to dispose of trash and sewage? Are all the trailer sites more like camping than like living in a settled home?

I have dear friends with a 45-foot motor home (the kind with the built-in engine so they tow the car behind it).
They use it for snow-birding because they've got $$$.

That said, I've learned that a house on wheels is complicated. You've got all the problems of a house and all the problems of a car combined. Your house, with its wiring and plumbing, is constantly shaking from earthquakes as you drive down the road. The roof is more like a car roof: it's flat. Like a house, though, it's got all these vents, each of which is an opportunity for rust.

You can't over-winter in the RV up north UNLESS you're in a park that has hardened water and sewage fixtures as everything freezes. This is why so many snowbirds head south right by Halloween (at the very latest) to where it never freezes. Hardened RV parks are few and far between in northern climes and they charge much more.

RV parks don't -- as a rule -- allow homesteaders. I believe this is for tax purposes. If you live full-time in an RV park, then shouldn't you be paying county taxes? According to my friends, you've got to move every few weeks.

The issue I see is water, sewage, and electric, along with roof issues.
If you've got a place you can park the RV, off in the woods on some friend's acreage, you might be able to live very cheaply. I know I've seen *MANY* RV's parked in the woods, near an old farmhouse and I'm betting that family members are living in them.

You'll need some mechanical skills.
The second-hand RV market is orders of magnitude cheaper than the new ones.

Go third-hand and you'll save enormous amounts of money but you'll also be enduring years of deferred maintenance.

If you're thinking of a secondhand motor home, do your homework first. Lots of people live in them, that's clear enough during the winter when the leaves fall and reveal what lurks in the woods. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

On the other hand, it's infinitely better than a tent.

mountainmoma's picture

you cannot count on finding a place to park with hookups is the issue. ( Hookups is the shorthand way of saying the place has electricity, water and sewage connections) There is a very big shortage of these type of places.

ANd, as Theresa mentioned, RV's were not designed for full time living. So, they break easily with full time living. I hvae been living in a trailer for over a year now and yes, the cushions are now worn out ( not the uphostry, the cushion material no longer has give) the bathroom mirror is coming out, the microwave broke and the connection to teh propane tank needs to be repaired, the front door almost was taken off by high winds and has a small hole in the outer layer now, and hte back window is leaking in driven rain.

You mentioned you do not have a car and dont want one. You wouldnt have a way to drive to a specialty store to buy the replacement pieces, etc..

It would be much simpler for you, and with no hidden costs, to rent in your friends friends house

I have been coming to the same conclusion as you and Ken say. It does not seem at all probable that I could manage the difficulties associated with trailer life. The option of lodging is far from a settled matter! I have not yet even met the homeowner for a conversation about the possibility. I do appreciate the real-life insights people have to offer here.

Ken's picture

GKB - If you do not drive and do not have the maintenance skills to take care of the infinite number of minor and major issues that routinely come up with RVs, I respectfully suggest that renting one is not actually a viable solution to your housing situation. There are social services that "should" be able to help you. Durham is not a poor town in the middle of nowhere; there has GOT to be a social worker there that can connect you to resources. I urge you to reach out to social services. Not all social workers are annoyingly self righteous do-gooders; some are genuinely trying to help and a few are actually fantastic at their jobs. And that job is HELPING people just like yourself. I rented for years to a young man with AIDS via a program called Section 8 housing. Essentially, I had to meet the program housing standards and he had to meet the income requirements but the upshot of it was I got a check from the county every month and he got a modest but solid and secure 2 bedroom home to live in. That might not be available in your area; I don't know. But I am sure that there are social welfare programs that can help you, if you can only find an experienced guide through the labyrinth. Good luck!

David Trammel's picture

Old RVs are often seen for sale, but I wonder at the condition they come in. As others have mentioned, they are the worst of both options, not a good house, and not a good car.

I doubt this can be an option given what you have said but one possibility is to downsize into a large van and convert that to a living space. I've seen some great conversions though they are "the tiny of the tiny homes". You have to give up just about everything you own and shoehorn yourself into the minimal. But then you'd have to do that for a tent. At least a van would be more secure and you'd have a vehicle that is a vehicle.

When I moved to California to work in movies, in the mid-90s, I found a crappy old Ford van and built a workbench that doubled as a bed, then some storage. The first month I was in LA, I parked at night on streets and in large parking lots. You had to be careful not to stay more than 5-6 hours though. Which meant you had to get up and move in the middle of the night sometimes. Once each week I'd get a motel room to clean up. There are some cheap motels out there, lol but then they are cheap for a reason.

I don't remember how handy you are at building out something like that though it's not as hard as it appears. DIY has an advantage in that you can insulate the heck out of it and partition the driving area from the sleeping area. Less likely to have someone notice the stuff in the back if you keep it out of sight.

Here are some lower-cost options: