General chatter - Advice for how to help an almost homeless family member?

04-07-2014, 02:45 AM
So I've got this uncle, I think he's 59. He's been a lifelong drug abuser and alcoholic, but a few years ago he had a heart attack and he quit drinking and he hasn't used drugs in longer than that, about 18 years. He's been clean and sober for 2 years, at least that's what he tells me.

He lost his job a couple years ago and hasn't found work. He's been living with his ex-wife's boyfriend (awkward, I know) and helps out around the house with chores and cooking. But his ex-wife and her boyfriend are getting married, and she'll be moving in and she wants my Uncle out. They're marrying in 2 weeks, so my uncle has 2 weeks to find a place.

I've been trying to convince him since he lost his job to accept help from me in the form of a loan (which would really be a gift, but I call it a loan as he is more likely to accept money as a loan than as a gift) and he's refused it repeatedly. Until today. He said he would accept help.

His situation has me really nervous though. In the past, I knew he had the security of a place to live and that any money I provided would be used towards the end goal of getting a job. He needs some new clothes. He needs a cell phone (so prospective employers can contact him). He needs bus money.

But now with the added pressure of homelessness, I'm a bit stumped. Note, we live about as far apart as we could and still in the same country- he's in WV, I'm in Alaska. I don't have other family nearby that can help him, and I'm not in contact with his ex-wife. He has a son that I've tried to reach out to in the past, but he doesn't know me and so had little to say to me.

I don't know if he can get an apartment without having a job. If he applies for a place, and they see he has no job, will they rent to him? I don't know. I looked to see if there were any rooms for rent in the area and haven't turned up anything. Jobs in his area of skill are also scarce- he's trained as a warehouseman and I only found one job in his area.

I don't want to end up enabling him to start drinking again. I also don't want him to feel a loan from me comes with a bunch of strings and me checking up on him all the time to make sure he's spending the money the way I think he should. He's an adult, and I need to treat him that way.

Has anyone here ever dealt with anything like this? Can anyone offer advice? What is the best way for me to help in a situation like this?

Note that I do have one other relative, my Uncle's sister/my Aunt, who is also willing to help and she's in a position to help more substantially than I can. However, her assistance would have to be funneled through me as he refuses to speak with her for reasons he has never shared with me. In fact, he's pretty much cut off everyone in the family with the exception of myself and his ex-wife and son. My Aunt suspects he's mentally ill, and I suppose that's possible but he does seem to be functional.

At my suggestion he did look into disability (due to his heart attack and his horribly bad back) but he was turned down because he's not currently under a doctor's care.

Any advice is appreciated.

04-07-2014, 03:10 AM
Hi EagleRiverDee:

I really admire you for wanting to help him. A lot of people in this situation don't have family that can or would be willing to offer them help.

I am so interested in the responses you get from your post. I have a cousin who is mentally ill and refused to work her entire life. She is in her early 60s and is running out of money. I am very scared that I am going to have to support her
for the rest of her life. She seems functional; she lives on her own, pays her bills, dresses and feeds herself etc. but she is paranoid, germophobic, depressed, won't drive, won't socialize with most people, won't eat food that she has touched with her hands . . .

The only idea that comes to mind is if there are any social service agencies in WV that he would be willing to go to for some help. I don't know if something like Goodwill Industries or United Way handle this type of thing but there may be some organization that can work with him perhaps doing occupational therapy or training. Also, I am wondering if there is a way to get him some medical care and counseling through these agencies or with Obamacare.

My cousin refuses to do any of this, so her future is not looking good at all.

I wish you, your uncle and your family all of the best. It is a very tough situation. :hug:

04-07-2014, 07:40 AM
I don't have any good input on the relationship side of things, but if he has no local connections, maybe he could consider moving to a place like North Dakota with is starving for workers due to the oil boom? It's hard to get housing there bc so many people have moved there for jobs, but I guess it's better to be employed (at a good salary) and homeless than unemployed and homeless :( . I don't know about any of this personally, but I hear about it in the news. Maybe there are some employers there who offer remedial accommodations for workers. I guess I'm suggesting you could see if he was open to the possibility and if he was, do some research to see if you could pave the way for him (figure out where he might be able to work and live).

I'm glad your uncle has you to help him out. May karma repay your kindness!

04-07-2014, 10:50 AM
Oof, tough situation. Couple of suggestions:

1. Call the local state representative's office where your uncle lives, or the WV senator's office. Briefly explain the circumstances about your uncle and how you don't live in the area, ask if they can direct you to any housing assistance or social service programs.

2. Catholic Charities ( also has programs in WV that might be able to help your uncle with housing, employment, etc.

Your uncle is lucky to have someone in his life who cares. Wishing you much luck! :hug:

04-07-2014, 12:13 PM
You or he may be able to call 211. 211 is available in some areas and provides information on housing, food banks, etc. Insofar as housing and employment, he may have the best luck with individuals who are renting apartments or houses over apartment communities which often have strict income to rent ratios and credit checks.

There is going to be help available for him, you just have to find it. If he is 59, he is still 3 years from being able to claim Social Security, I believe, but it is at least on the horizon. You may want to call or email the trustee in his town and they would be able to point you in the right direction of who else to call. They pay utility bills, etc when people cannot afford to do so and would probably know where to get food or emergency housing.

Since you said he is in West Virgina, check out the HUD website (clicky). ( There is a link on that website that you can use to ask a question or contact a housing counseling agency. Maybe you would be able to pay up his rent directly if you are a bit hesitant to give him unrestricted access to cash.

As someone else suggested, Catholic Charities is a good option. I really think that once you get a hold of someone who is in the business of helping people that they will be able to direct you to other agencies that can help him.

I am so glad that he has you in his life to advocate for him. There is strong possibility that his issues may be related to mental illness which makes it so much more difficult for a person to advocate for themselves in situations like this. Good luck!

04-08-2014, 06:31 PM
I appreciate the feedback. I sent my uncle some cash yesterday when I got a panicked email that he's being thrown out this coming Monday and he just sounded like he was at his wits' end. I've directed him to some housing options (everything from roommate, to apartment to transitional housing for alcoholics that includes things like counseling). I've sent him information on some job openings in his area. I gave him a check-list suggestion of things he might prioritize (since it sounded like he was so stressed he wasn't thinking logically).

Here's hoping things work out for him. My Aunt has been helping too. I'm trying to convince him that he needs to let bygones be bygones and allow her back into his life- My Aunt literally could completely change this situation for him. She has the ability to travel to where he is, she's savvy about dealing with gov't programs, and she has money and a love of family that would result in her being willing to help in whatever manner he needed until he was on his feet.

Unfortunately, he seems stuck on refusing this. I don't understand it.

04-08-2014, 06:50 PM
That sounds like a really difficult situation, EagleRiverDee. :( I know how hard it is to stand by and watch someone struggle who is unwilling and/or unable to accept help. I hope your uncle is eventually able to accept some form of assistance being offered and can get some stability in his life.

I know it's little comfort, but it sounds like you're doing the absolute best you can, given the circumstances. My thoughts are with you and your family. Please keep us updated if anything changes. :hug:

04-08-2014, 08:49 PM
Hi Dee,

Hugs to you for all that you're going through. Some people in my family have alcohol issues, it's scary.

I agree that using community resources such as trying to apply for food stamps, public health insurance, etc are a good start. There are a lot of resources out there.

Is he getting help for his issues?

Good luck and bless you for caring.


04-09-2014, 03:37 PM
I wouldn't give up on disability just because he isn't under a doctor's care. It might be worth the investment of several hundred dollars to get a doctor's opinion on whether he is disabled or not. And if he could get on Social Security Disability (SSDI) he would be eligible for Medicare before age 65. It is difficult to get SSDI and he would definitely need medical records to support that he is disabled. If you could find a doctor who has experience with SSDI assessments, that could be helpful. A local social services agency might be able to help with getting through the application process or provide a referral to someone who can help.

Chubbie Chick
04-10-2014, 01:15 PM
You might find a great deal of assistance at your local senior center. They are a wealth of information and can direct you to the appropriate agencies.

In our county, we have a Department of Aging which provides shelter, utility assistance, clothing, food, counseling, job assistance, in other words, lots of help.

Hope this helps.

ps One last thought: If your uncle is a veteran, you can get help by going to your local VFW or American Legion. They can get your uncle started with the process of applying for assistance.