When You Need Permanent Help With the Rent
You know, I’ve never signed a lease or moved into a home and thought “ How many times can I pay the rent late before the landlords really hate me and I’m scared to answer the door?” Unfortunately, it’s a position that I’ve been in several times, and I’ve learned along the way that there are a few things I can do that will, at least, minimize the amount of rent that I am short on. I’ve been very close to homelessness several times, and it’s something I would do almost anything to avoid. I’d rather be embarrassed than homeless, and when you can’t pay the rent, that’s a very real possibility.
The first thing I learned (the hard way) was not to rent a place that I couldn’t afford. The first apartment I rented after my divorce was beautiful, with two huge bedrooms, wonderful closets, huge bathrooms, and bathtubs you could practically swim in. When I signed the lease, I’d been getting at least ten hours a week of overtime, and that overtime was what allowed me to qualify for that wonderful place. The week after my daughters and I moved in, all that wonderful overtime was canceled, and I was stuck paying the rent with my regular salary and my sometimes there-sometimes not child support. I wound up paying my rent late four out of the next six months, and I was not eligible to renew my lease when it ended.
That taught me a very valuable lesson…when we moved the next time, I chose a very basic two bedroom unit in a 4plex with regular bathtubs and small closets. There was no pool, nor were there washer dryer hookups, but it was two hundred dollars less each month, and I didn’t have trouble paying rent for over a year. With the money I saved on rent, I was eventually able to buy a washing machine that hooked up to the kitchen sink, so I still got to avoid the expensive laundromat.
Unfortunately, about 13 months later about 50 of my my-coworkers and I came in on a Monday to find out that our jobs (and the department we were in) were ending that following Friday. Yes, I was able to get unemployment payments, but that took over a month….which left me with nothing to pay the next month’s rent.
Now, I’ve already written an article on short-term solutions for help paying the rent, which I hope you’ve had the chance to read. However, long-term solutions are needed even more badly. It’s a sad reality of life for many single moms that rent is a continual struggle. Even with the raises in minimum wage that have taken place over the last few years, minimum wage for a full time job is still less than 1200 dollars a month in most states. That makes it almost impossible to support yourself, let alone your child or children, on that wage. And until the minimum wage becomes a living wage, long-term help with rent and mortgage assistance is going to be even more necessary.
And education IS the key, but how are you supposed to work and go to school and raise your kids, especially if you’re on a low wage? The answer may be some type of Section 8 or low-income housing, or even living on campus if you’re near a college or university that makes that possible. There will be an article on housing for single parents and non-traditional students on campus at some colleges and universities in the near future, because I’ve done that, too.
Section 8 housing comes in more than one form. You may be familiar with apartment complexes where each unit is rented to people with a low-income, and people with higher salaries or without dependents are not allowed to live. Tenants here will have to qualify, with regards to credit, criminal history and family size.
In some areas, you may also have the opportunity to get what is called a “portable” voucher after you have successfully completed a lease period ( usually a year) in this complex. That voucher, if you were approved for one, would allow you to move into any home that accepts Section 8. This is a very common way for individuals to move into nice neighborhoods, using Section 8 to get on their feet.
A few battered women’s shelters in the United States are associated with housing that is based on your income. Technically, this is also considered Section 8 housing because they receive their funding through the same program, but your credit may not matter nearly as much as it would in another program, because of the unique circumstances that appear in the lives of domestic violence victims.
To find the closest place that participates in this program, you can visit here: http://www.affordablehousingonline.com/section8housing.asp, I strongly suggest that you look in the areas around you as well. It is often found that bigger cities have very long waiting lists for their housing, but smaller towns don’t.
VASH, or Veterans Administration Supported Housing, provides a very limited number of housing vouchers to qualified homeless or otherwise needy veterans. If you are interested and eligible, contact the nearest Veteran’s Administration for information.
There may be a few other organizations that offer rental help on smaller scale. 211, accessed by calling them at 211, or their website at http://www.211.org/, can tell you of other sources. Any other funding, besides what I listed here, will be rare, but possible.
And I have learned one other thing about getting long-term help …don’t be afraid to ask for it. This is something that I have a really hard time with. I’m reasonably young, I’m capable, I chose to have my kids, and I chose to keep custody of them after my divorce, so it’s been really hard for me to ask for help. I want to be Supermom and do everything by myself, with no help.
Asking for help when I needed it made my kids better off, and therefore it made me a better parent. There is nothing wrong with asking for help!