Help or Assistance Needed? The Art of Living Hand to Mouth

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A help source for those that are disabled, down on their luck, laid-off, fired, divorced, single parents, underpaid and just plain broke—by someone who’s been there and done that.

Enter 2011, a mildly recovering recession, high unemployment, low wages. People are trying to find ways to make ends meet. Back in 2007, my sister was making a six-figure income in the mortgage business. She was single, successful, had a Bachelor’s degree and no children. Life was good. Then the mortgage business went sour. She lost two homes to foreclosure and is now staying with my parents. It is a way of life that has become the norm for a lot of people. There are people out there now that are applying for assistance for the first time in their lives.

I have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have had to get assistance from various venues to make ends meet for several years. Even while holding down a full time job. But with five kids, even $35K is not a lot of money. So since I have been off work due to disability this year, (now getting less than $18K) I desperately need to find something positive to do with my time for depression-sake (per my psychiatric nurse). I love helping people, so here goes.

First of all, welcome to my world. It is not lonely here in rock-bottom-ville. There are many of us here to connect with. Some people will never make it out, but please keep God or whoever you worship at the top of your list as you could very easily sink into depression.

Utilities/Landline Phones

A lot of people don’t know this, but most (if not all) utility and phone companies have either a reduced rate for low income people or offer some sort of discount on their bill. Each state participates in a federally subsidized program called LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Each state disperses this assistance differently, so the first step is to go to the government website and click on your state to see if you qualify. Here is the link: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/. For example, here in Arizona they will look at your income and the number of people in your family and basically put a chunk of money on your utility bill…no kidding. You must show proof of income and have birth certificates and social security cards for everyone and your utility bill. For the phone bill, simply contact your service provider and ask what they offer for low income people. You could also go through the Department of Human Services for your state if you receive welfare assistance.

You can also go to the Salvation Army, St. Vincent DePaul or your local churches for utility assistance.

Rent/Housing

If you are under the U.S. figure for low or extremely low income, you could apply for Section 8. Yes, they have long waiting lists, but please note that if you are homeless and/or in the extremely low end of their figures, it will get you moved up on the list. First go to the US HUD website, and click on your state for more information. You can also do a Google search for Section 8 in your city AND surrounding cities. Even check on cities in another state. Here is the link to the Department of Housing and Urban Development: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/rental_assistance.

Each county also offers some type of transitional housing (formerly called the projects). You can check with your local government on transitional or subsidized housing.

Gas (For your car)

This is something that plagued me several times. I’d have an interview and no gas. Gas is something everyone needs from time to time and unless you know someone you could borrow a few dollars from, you’re screwed. Most churches may help with gas cards. You could also check out the Societyb of St. Vincent DePaul. They have volunteer members that work in church parish offices and help people. Here’s a link to their main website, from which you should locate a location that serves your zip code area: http://www.svdpusa.org/AssistanceServices.aspx.

Food/Diapers

Food is probably one of the easiest things to get help with. Of course you could apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called Food Stamps). Note that it is called “Supplemental”. This means that they only give you enough to supplement what you would normally pay for groceries in a month. It’s important that you shop wisely because they can go fast. Try to shop at places like Sams Club (yes, they take food stamps), where you can buy in bulk and make your money last longer.

Churches are always willing to help if they have a food pantry. There will mostly be dry and canned goods, but soup goes a long way when you don’t have anything to feed your kids.

Salvation Army also assists with food. Usually you are only allowed to come once a month or so. Be sure and check with your local Salvation Army and find out what the requirements are. You can find them in your local white pages or online. They also usually have a diaper bank and clothing bank. They may even have some toiletries there such as laundry and dish detergent or toilet paper and soap.

St. Vincent De Paul assists with food as well. They will either give you a food voucher to use at a local grocery store or food gift cards or a food box. They may have diapers as well. Always call first; they usually do a phone intake first to see if they can help you.

Car Repairs/Car insurance/Rent/Disability

There is a website stated about 2002 that helps families and individuals to pay such things as emergency expenses, medical bills for disabled people and for unemployed people who are going back to work. For eligibility requirements, check out their website. (There’s a link on this page.)

Also, if you have been unable to work for 12 months or longer due to a disability, contact Social Security Administration and file for SSI/SSDI. Here is the link: www.ssa.gov.

Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have further questions. I will try to answer all of them as best I can. Living hand to mouth is all about being resourceful.

**Watch for my next hub, it discusses things you can do from home to earn supplemental income.***

More by this Author


Comments 31 comments

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

Great and well written hub! This is very helpful to all of us. Just think positively. God is always there to guide us. Thanks for sharing.


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 4 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

Hi michememe: It is difficult to make that first step to ask for help, but, as you said, the kids need to eat. EVERYONE needs some sort of help at some point in their lives. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!


michememe profile image

michememe 4 years ago

Great Hub. I have been there and done it all. There is no shame in needing assistance to get ahead. Just recently I had to tell a cousin of mine, how to go about these steps. She didn't want to, but I reminded her, the children need to eat. After placing her pride aside she applied for foodstamps and was approved for them. The kids are eating, and she has a few dollars to spare for emergencies.


LillyG 4 years ago

Very good hub! I have found myself unemployed and dealing with health issues. These will come in handy although some of the benefits I do already receive. Thanks!


marymac47 profile image

marymac47 4 years ago from Franklin. NC

This is a very good and useful Hub!! My husband anbd I are both on SSDI and trying to keep 'above' everything can and is very hard! Staying Positive, even if it is hard, certainly can make the day better!! I am following you and give you a Big thumbs up!!!


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

Oh my hub babies!!! Thank you so much for the uplifting words. It's good to know that I am reaching people. That's what I set out to do.

This was the very first hub I ever wrote for HubPages!!


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

You've put a lot of valuable information into this hub for anyone whose income is very low, regardless of whether they are working fulltime for low wages, disabled or unemployed. There is much help available but if the potentially eligible person doesn't know where to find help or is too proud to do so the help won't make its way to families that desperately need it.

Bless you for sharing your personal experience and knowledge for the benefit of others.


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

Thanks so much Cardisa!!! To know that I have "humbled" anyone is inspiring in and of itself. Thanks so much for your kind words!!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

I am so humbled by this hub. You have truly pointed resourceful ways for you and you family to survive. I have a new found respect for you hub name too. I now understand why you are called "stayingalivemomma". Thanks for sharing and I know these tips will be of great help to many.


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 5 years ago from Cheshire, UK

Great hub! I can empathise with your situation. I have been out of work for two years and have lost two homes. I can't afford private rent prices and have been on the social housing list for two years. I'm back at my mums! Not what I envisaged when I excitedly left home at 18. Now at 39, living with my Mum. Mortifying! I know i'm lucky that I have that option but still. I used to have a beautiful house, car, career etc. I know it's not only me but sometimes it sends you on a big downer. I love the practical, optimistic mood of this. It's a difficult time for so many and we just have to get through it. Thanks.


qlcoach profile image

qlcoach 5 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

Thank you for being so honest about venting your anxieties, frustrations, and challenges. I can relate as I'm a retired mental health and substance abuse counselor. I live in Cave Junction, Oregon. I write about emotional recovery and miracles. Peace and Light...Gary.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

BRAVO!!! So well written and informative! Voted UP! You covered every one of the basic help programs except super-super-cheap phone service. It's called various things in different states, but in all it's no-frills, basic phone service for as little as $1 and at most $10 a month.

To qualify, your income has to be below a certain level per the number of family members. If you already qualify for Section 8, get food stamps or SSI, you qualify for discount phone service. Even senior citizens living alone whose only income is "regular" Social Security will usually be eligible.

The only downside is that you can only get ONE line per household, and it can ONLY be a land line OR a cell phone, but NOT both. On the upside, by getting a land line, you can use it to access the internet (via a local number) using a dial-up provider such as NetZero. (Hey, even molasses-slow is better than no internet at all. Unless, of course, you prefer making daily trips to your local library to get online for an hour at a time...IF they still offer this service.)

As for your sister whose income went from six figures to zip, years ago I said that people at or near the bottom of the economic heap would fare far better (survival wise) in a recession than those who'd been making big bucks. The reason being that the long-time-impoverished already knew how to get by on less, whereas the newly impoverished wouldn't have a clue. ;D


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

Useful information given...and in a positive mood. I hope I never need this...but at least I was brought up to be thrifty and resourceful!

Besides that...welcome to HubPages!


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

Thanks!! We gotta have lunch girl!! Maybe have chicken and waffles out in Scottsdale!


Rachelle Williams profile image

Rachelle Williams 5 years ago from Tempe, AZ

This is a well written and very timely article. I wish you much success in your efforts to "supplement" your income, and I give a big thumbs up to you for educating us about helpful information.

Voted Up!


Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

Emmanuel Kariuki 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Hi, stayingalivemomma. Just visited and liked the way you have presented the info. In Kenya though, when you are in dire straits, the only respite is the Red Cross. Maybe there are agencies that can help if we care to research the way you have done.


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

What a wonderfully helpful Hub. Unfortunately some of us just fall through the cracks just making ends meet but making a dollar an hour too much. Great read - you write very well. Rated up and I'm a fan.


seacap 5 years ago

@CloudExplorer and ALL.

The federal government has MANY duties and programs. MANY go largely underutilized...MOSTLY because "we the people" are ignorant of their existence. The government IS huge, and sometimes unwieldly, but there exists help or resources...which SOME would cut off...

The Small Business Administration is charged with providing business startup assistance and is the "financer of last resort' for entrepreneurs, when banks and others WILL NOT lend the BILLIONS they ars sitting on.

SBA provides businsess counseling and startup support through SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) as well as, as I stated earlier, funding (until the Republicans "shrink government" in that area as well as FEMA for victims of "NATURAL" disasters)for business startup and continuance is the GOVERNMENT'S extended hand for people who need help starting out in business. Let me say, as someone else mentioned, there can be SERIOUS hurdles to getting funding and other access to these program, such as SSI...but DON'T stop trying!!!

MANY means of help are largely unknown...and in my humble opinion(IMHO)may be un announced or published to the prospective audience or users of the programs.

There was a publication by a man running around in a commercial with ???'s on his suit trying to sell it. It was an INCH thick, and had THOUSANDS of programs...some state and local, but MANY offered by various state, local as well as Federal programs. It should be available in most public libraries.


lundmusik profile image

lundmusik 5 years ago from Tucson AZ

god bless and thanks for all the useful info...!!!


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

Thanks so much! I really appreciate your kind words.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

Churches are a huge helping aspect. My mom and I were living in a car for about a week- we had money coming just not good timing, but a church helped us out so much. I can really see where your writing comes from your experiences and its wonderful!!!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

More and more people are needing help just to make ends meet. But now with the budget cutting frenzy, I worry about people who are in real trouble. It seems like certain entities look down on those who are suffering from the downturn and wonder if help will be cut.


seacap 5 years ago

I wrote earlier on "be careful what you wish for", and sure enough, the Arizona Republic-AN for Wednesday, Sept 8, reports that local programs for police and fire equipment and vehicles as well as humanitarian and charitable agencies are struggling for support. On the East coas, the victims of the last hurricane are wondering what the "mad dogs" in congress are going to do about FEMA support for those victims.

I wonder what the price is for a human life these days to the elected and cynical politicians.

We must elect people who will support the safety nets for hapless victims of corporate and banking greed.


stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona Author

...sweet...thanks a lot!!!


Stories Inc. profile image

Stories Inc. 5 years ago

H stayingalivemoma! I followed the links you left in the coffee shop ;)

I love the style of your hubs, btw, they're so easy and flowing and stay to the point without ever getting long-winded. I'm not even from the states, so I can't use most of the information, but I still enjoyed reading this, so welldone ;).


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 5 years ago from New York City

I sense your pain indeed, I quit my job recently to start my own web development business, I was making close to $50,000 a year, but I realized that if I go all in on a web venture, chances is during the worst economic crisis the planet has faced, I might just turn up on the receiving end in a huge way. Much to my surprise I found out the hard way, that it's not going to be as easy as I thought.

The fact that many businesses online literally crumble in the matter of months after their inception, shows the proof. Plus in order to attract the attention of the worldwide webs audience you must do, so truly outrageous things these days, because everyone seems focused on what appears to be out of the norm. One last thing about it all is, you truly need to have funding, and when I say that I mean in the millions to get the word around enough on the web so people will actually trust in a particular name, brand, or business.

This economy and life as a whole is a definite challenge to us all, so I commend you for sticking in there & choosing to fight the battle with us all. I use these times as my motivating force to keep striving for success, even through the toughest moments. Me and my partner pray all the time that things will come through, so we been networking in many ways to make such an occurrence become a reality. God knows best, or like you said whatever you may have faith in today. Great Hub.


doll lady 5 years ago

Hi....on the social security disability...you have to be disabled for at least 5 months and have a disability which is either permanent or expected to last at least 12 months. Just thought this needed clarification. And....it's very difficult to get approved...benn there done that!!!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I've read both your hubs, and I think they are well-written and informative. I look forward to reading more of yours. Will follow you!


DRidge profile image

DRidge 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, MS

I love your Hub Stayinalivemommma. It is really well written. Keep writing and I bet you can make some money! It is difficult to take care of five kids. I cannot imagine doing that alone. Keep your head up and know that you're all these kids have. I'm always here if you want to talk.


seacap 5 years ago

Isn't it AMAZING what resources are out there if you can find them...AND if crazy politicians do not cut the programs...like as is happening in MANY states.

Be careful what you wish for...you might just get it.

During the 2010 elections, many uninformed and ignorant people were shouting down elected officials with anger and focussing their anger, although mis guided, repaced some in the House of Representatives and in many states with people who repeated their slogans.

The reduction of the US credit rating and endangerment of the financial and U.S. Bonds system is a partial result.

In Michigan, Republicans won the elections for Governer, State legislature and many other offices.

Food stamps for 30,000 college students was cut.

In Wisconsin, the newly elected politicians wrote and the govorner passed laws eliminating the rights of unions for firemen, teachers and others to be represented, althought the job safety, benefits and job security which unions fought for...and members DIED for in the early and mid 1900s...are enjoyed and have benefitted millions of families. Ask your union representative or call the Local Hall you paid union dues to for help or directions to help.

To the point of this hub...many working...and NON working people donate to the United Way and other charitable organizations. There is only one shame when you have your back against the wall, and that is to DIE for PRIDE and watch your family suffer, because you are "too proud to beg".

I would be calling my State Representative, the governors office, my U.S. Representatives who own 7 or more houses and everybody else including movie stars and local elected officials. They would get to know my name.


UrsulaRose 5 years ago

Welcome to HubPages stayingalivemomma.

Thank you for writing such an informative Hub Article. I look forward to reading many more of your hubs!

I too have been there done that (still am coming to think of it) because of illness forcing me out of full-time work.

I make the most out of my life (no point whinging because no one is listening) and like you, I try to stay optimistic and pass on whatever knowledge and assistance that I can. It was one of my reasons for signing up to HubPages - venting frustration of constantly being in pain.

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