Threading the Maze

I have not explored the full range of ‘services’ available to us, partly due to pride and independence, partly due to living in a state of denial (I KNEW I would be getting a job soon and could not acknowledge to myself our fall from middle class), and partly due to a reluctance to lower myself into the morass known as social services with all the requisite crawling and self-exposure! I like to keep my private life private.

But, unless I get a job in the next month or congress renews the unemployment benefit extensions, we will be out on the street soon – we only have 2 more benefit checks. The former seems unlikely based on my experience to date, and the latter isn’t anything I want to count on, so I’ve decided I must go ahead and at least prepare to apply for food stamps (food being our biggest expense after rent).

My preliminary research into available services did turn up one unexpected plus – California has a low cost auto insurance program (and we qualify) so the insurance I have to renew this month may cost $100 or more less than the private quote. Now if they’d just lower the registration fees for the car and trailer!

So look forward to more adventures to come as I thread the maze of services, applications, and options ahead of us and continue the job search, work on my book proposal and research North Dakota! Hang on, the ride might get a little rocky!

This entry was posted in food stamps, homelessness, job search, recession, unemployment benefits. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Threading the Maze

  1. k says:

    Hey, I’ll do it if you do. 🙂 I commented a few weeks ago on how I was finding myself in a similar situation, and had been looking for an RV. It looks like I do have an apartment–a few states away, in a rural area. Since the COL is comparatively low there, I do have a few months rent saved. In order to make it last, I’m also considering applying for any assistance my child & I qualify for. The COL is low enough that as long as I find *some* kind of work, we should be OK. I also have a little self-employment income, which helps. That money goes farther in a small town than it does in an urban area. Maybe North Dakota or someplace similar isn’t such a bad gamble?

    I completely understand the shame and the hesitancy, BUT if it keeps you from literally spending your last cent, I think it’s worth doing. If you do spend your last cent, then you’ll pretty much HAVE to apply for help, and you’ll have less control.

    I figure the worst that can happen is they say NO, and are rude to me, but even if that’s the case, it can’t hurt to try. As a pp suggested, I also plan to apply for as much online–either directly or by printing forms in advance, so I can minimize the time spent face to face in a potentially soul crushing experience.

  2. Eva says:

    You’ll get more for your money by buying in bulk. Canned pork and beans is way more expensive than buying dried beans and a hambone.

  3. Mary says:

    I understand your reasons for not wanting to mess with the benefits you have been getting, but if they run out for sure…please try tutor.com

    If you can tutor in math or science you should get in a lot faster than I did with English. You can set your hours and it goes where you go. They anticipate a huge rush in the fall and are bringing on tutors now.

    I was skeptical, but love it! It’s hard work, but if it pays down some bills it’s worth it to me.

  4. Kim says:

    I was directed to your blog by an article on MSN. As a single mother of 4 myself, you are an inspiration. We, too, have been homeless and faced many of the challenges you are facing, but you do it with humor and grace. I am praying for you and looking for ways that I may be able to help you and your beautiful family.

    Kim
    Phoenix, AZ

    • boxcarkids says:

      Thank you Kim – that is very kind of you! I hope you and your family have found safe harbor!

      One way readers can help is by shopping Amazon.com through the links on the blog, but the best way I think is by spreading the word! We appreciate recommendations. I’m working on a book proposal about our situation and a larger blog readership will help me convince an agent that people like to read what I write!

      • Kim says:

        I have been sending links to your blog to everyone I know! I even posted it on my facebook page. I am very fortunate to have been able to get back on my feet, but I am one of those “middle class” that are one paycheck away from the same situation. I will check out Amazon and if there is any other way we can help, please let us know!

  5. Nicole says:

    I’m so glad you’re looking into these programs! I look forward to learning about what you find and reading about the processes. SNAP is great for all the reasons welfare lawyer listed, and using the safety net is important for the next generation.

  6. Ted says:

    I wish the politicians would understand the amount of children affected by these political meanderings. Apply for whatever aid you can possibly get.

  7. welfare lawyer says:

    Food stamps are great! The whole reason that food stamps are (comparatively) popular across the political spectrum is because they are a good investment. Federal tax dollars get injected into the local economy, benefiting the families who have more to eat, the shops and farmer’s markets that sell the food, and ultimately the food producers. Each tax dollar allocated to Food Stamps yields a $1.73 return! (based on 2008 info, http://frac.org/news/real_stimulus.htm
    In my state (Massachusetts) you can apply for food stamps (now called SNAP) online. Maybe your state has this too? Then you could get your case processed quicker and spare yourself the extreme unpleasantness of waiting for days in a welfare office waiting room.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Thanks for the info! SNAP has an assessment tool which I used to discover we might be eligible for $250 in food stamps while receiving unemployment. Presumably more when I have no income!

  8. Lisa M. says:

    If you could find work, I would move to where the work is. View it as an adventure, and not necessarily a permanent move (when the economy improves, as it eventually will, it will be easier to find work in a place you like more).

    You know, I like the suggestion of the commenter above, about receiving samples and things in the mail. I have a bunch of shampoo that I’m not going to use, and would be very glad to mail it to you. Would that help?

  9. plam says:

    I’ve been reading about this guy on the Internet who has been feeding himself for far less than $1 a day. It has actually been quite interesting to read. The key is that he uses coupons extensively and chooses food which actually has net negative price. He gets extra stuff from the coupons and donates quite a bit to food banks. It would obviously be harder to feed more than 1 person, but it might be worth looking into.

    http://www.grocerycouponguide.com/articles/eating-well-on-1-a-day/

    • boxcarkids says:

      I love it! Especially the sibling contest aspect. Reading through the FAQs I see that the exercise has been some what time consuming – going to multiple stores to shop for example and making multiple trips back to the same store in the same day (after spending a little, getting a new coupon, returning for another product). That aspect is a bit daunting.

      Here’s what he says in his first entry (after all the minutia about the process):
      So at the end of the day, I spent $4.49 of the $31.00 I have this month on day 1 to get the following food (before today’s meals):

      2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal
      4 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
      1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream
      10 apples
      2 lbs of carrots
      4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
      1 jar of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
      2 cans of pork and beans
      1 bag of long grain brown rice
      2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 count each)

      Now I suspect you can eat relatively nutritiously on that group of food but am not sure I could convince the kids to make meals of it! Nevertheless, a great reminder to use coupons! I wish the stores around here hadn’t stopped doubling them (or they only double up to $1).

  10. Catherine says:

    I know the farmers markets around here (and the farmers) often accept food stamps. One farm gives their employees the leftover CSA bags that do not get picked up….

  11. Penny says:

    Hey there … I don’t want to parrot back to you things you’ve probably already heard, but I’m wondering if you’ve visited the Food Bank or church Food Pantries in your area? My family grew up poor (very poor) and the food bank was a huge help – food stamps don’t go as far as you would think, especially if you are trying to eat healthy food.

    As far as other things, this might be a bit odd, but if you have a place where you receive email, you can cut down on some of your toiletry expenses (mostly shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste, soap, feminine products) by signing up for “free samples”. I would recommend the Free Samples page at Slickdeals to get you started.

    In fact, if you have a place where you receive mail and you feel comfortable giving it out, if you e-mail me, I’ll box up all the bazillion free samples, hotel size, etc, toiletries I have. I usually donate what I get to homeless shelters, but would rather they go to someone I “know”.

  12. Jerry says:

    North Dakota? Brrrrr! The *average* January temperature is 7 degrees F, that’s 25 degrees below freezing.

    You may have already read this really scary/bitter piece by John Dolan:
    http://www.alternet.org/story/102992/5_pieces_of_advice_for_the_new_paupers/

    Number one on the list of pieces_of_advice? Warmth.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  13. Betsy says:

    I wish there was more we could do to help. The economy here is good and there are help wanted signs everywhere as well. There are several environmental firms here and UVa if you want to check that out…..will keep you in my prayers and loving on C for you as long as you need us to do!!

  14. Oh boy, I feel for you, I really do. We may be going down the same road (broke, that is); I wouldn’t wish the agencies in charge of food stamps on anyone…but hang in there…persevere….you can do it. Don’t let them wear you down!

    What’s in North Dakota?

    Good luck!

    Jules

    • boxcarkids says:

      According to a previous comment ND apparently has the lowest unemployment rate of all the states but whether they have a job for me is another question! And actually if we do move from here (would much rather NOT) it will be a place where we have some existing ties.

  15. maja says:

    It’ll be good to take some of the stress out of the money situation by taking advantage of all the help you can get.

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