I do okay now, but I’ve been at the bottom of the bottom, poverty-wise: single mom, no job, no car, no child support, nothing but a lease I couldn’t pay. It sucks. But you do get creative trying to make ends meet when you only have one end.In no way is this a complete list of your possible resources when you’re really poor. These are primarily strategies I used when I was flat-broke and on the verge of real and total homelessness. But if you’re stuck, it’s a place to get started.
1. Government assistance. I will tell you, the hardest thing I ever did was apply for help at the welfare office. No one in my family that I know of has ever been on welfare. But I had kids to feed, and I was between jobs and unable to get another one right away because my car had thrown a rod. If you need it, though, it’s there.
2. Go back to school. If you absolutely cannot find a job – but you do want to go to school and you’re able to get there easily – go to your local employment office and ask them for help, then drop by your local community college and ask them for advice. Between the two, you should find training assistance money, grants, and loans that will help you get back on your feet, and maybe even wind up in a better position than you ever thought you could be in by yourself.
Warning: if you’re trying to dig out of poverty, do not get a degree like mine (English), especially if you take out educational loans. You will one day have a family to support. Get your nursing certificate, go to school for car maintenance, get into an HVAC program. Ideally, you want to go to school for a short period of time, train in a field that needs people in your city or region, and get paid as well as possible in a job you at least won’t hate. You can always get the fun or the advanced degree later.
3. In the short term, sell plasma. This is for filling in those financial gaps – getting gas when you absolutely have to have it, paying for the kids’ medicine, or buying groceries when you’re in a crunch. Don’t do it too often, even though the bonuses may look attractive; your focus should be on finding a good, decent job, not just surviving. And before you drive down, shop around; call the plasma locations near you and see who offers the best “gratuity” for your time. There will probably be a difference from one end of town to the other.
4. Make friends in your neighborhood and do odd jobs – babysitting, weeding, errands, dog walking, house sitting, etc. Especially if you’re an upstanding person and haven’t made a habit of obnoxious behavior like loud parties, you’ll find takers. You can even put a sign in your yard that you “do stuff for money.” Someone will take you up on it!
5. Learn about commodity programs, food banks, clothes closets, etc. in your area. The Salvation Army usually keeps a pretty complete list of these, and larger local churches that are involved in social service also will know where you can go for help. Like government assistance, don’t become too dependent upon these, and when you go, use the communication with new people to network for jobs. They will often be eager to help you out.
6. Call around to local agencies like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or United Way and ask about employment placement assistance or job training programs. Often, churches and libraries provide free computer training, and this may be enough to get you an entry-level office job.
7. If you have relatively easy computer access (and if you’re reading this, you probably do), and if you can write reasonably well, sell your writing to places like Associated Content. Face it – if you’re sitting around at home watching soaps or professional women’s rugby, you may as well sit around at the computer doing something that will bring you an income, however small.