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Monday, July 27, 2009

Where to Access Services

I was finishing up my last blog post when a friend called and needed help with his elderly mother in law who was recently widowed. A sister-in-law that the father was also supporting now needs help too because the main breadwinner for this family is no longer around to provide the finances that kept this family afloat. While I strictly advocate against relying on Welfare and social services, when a crisis happens, I strongly advocate FOR getting any benefits you can qualify for in order to give yourself a bit of time to collect up yourself and put yourself back on track. Here were my suggestions:
  • Get thee to the local welfare office and sign up for anything you qualify for (food stamps, housing, medical benefits, cash assistance, etc).
  • For older people or those with disabilities, check with Medicare and see if you qualify.
  • Get a list of the local food banks, Salvation Army, and free meal providers in your community. You never know when you will have more month left than food.
  • For older people, check with the local senior services agency. This office usually has lots of information on resources that are available for seniors in the community (free meals on wheels, job re-training, home care, etc).
  • If you have kids, sign them up for free or reduced lunch programs (which are also usually offered in the summer).
  • For legal issues, contact the closest legal aid office (these go by various names so Google free legal services and your closest city).
  • Check out the local community resource center (and/or campus resource center if you are a student). Our local community resource center provides a huge range of services--everything from paying for utilities, to help with eviction notices, to job training.
  • If anyone in the family has served any time at all in the military or reserves, contact the local Veteran's service center and see what programs you qualify for.


  • Make a list of all of the free things in the community you can think of (the library, free night at the museum or art gallery, free outdoor movies in the summer, free outdoor concerts, etc). If you are in a depressing situation, putting a little free fun back in your life is a good thing.
  • Round up some cash. In the midst of trauma it is hard to part with things but if necessary, cash to survive the current situation is much more important than stuff. Have a garage sale, list stuff for sale on Craigslist, etc. then put the money that you earn away for an emergency. Some people like to spend when they are sad or depressed but obviously if you are in dire straits, the money can be used for better things than more consumer junk.
  • Downsize immediately. A cell phone may be necessary but the $100 plan probably isn't. Get a basic plan for around $30 a month. Cut cable, cancel magazines...basically if it isn't a necessity then it isn't necessary, at least until you get back on your feet.
  • Get a job. Anything will do if you are unemployed. While you are waiting to find a job, volunteer somewhere in order to develop contacts and job skills.
  • Check with the local community college. Some colleges have free or very inexpensive job training courses for those who are unemployed or low income. Note that this isn't the time to take out a huge student loan and go back to school. You're trying to save the money that you don't have not put yourself deeper in debt.

That was about all I had at the moment. The main point was to stop, review your resources, find out what other resources you can access as quickly as possible, then move forward with earning money, cutting spending, and trying to get your life back together.


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