Housing is consistently the #1 reason Marion County residents call 2-1-1, making up about 25% of our calls. With Section 8 and the Public Housing waiting list closed until the fall of 2014 as well as most HUD low-income housing units having wait lists of a year or more, we wanted to dig in a little deeper and look at some other options for folks looking for housing they can afford when times are tough financially.
Lower cost market-rate apartments:
Often when it comes to housing, the best deals are found through friends and family, so work those connections. Ask around at work, school, your place of worship and daycare to see if anyone you know is aware of an opening somewhere nearby. Once you have those networks working for you, take a look online and in the newspaper. The Ocala Star Banner classifieds contain rental listings every day. According to their circulation department there isn’t one day of the week that is better(than another) to search their listings. Websites such as Craigslist and Ocala4Sale provide some lower cost listings of apartments, rooms and mobile homes for rent. Make sure you get a lease whether you are renting an apartment or a room.
Bringing the commune back into community:
You don’t have to be a hippie from the 60’s to appreciate communal living. Especially when you are a single parent and could use the support of other adults when you are working or just need a few minutes to take a walk and cool off. Communal living can bring down your expenses and beef up your support system. That could look like living with aunts, uncles, grandparents, or even another parent in the same boat. Just make sure it’s someone you can trust. According to Pew Research Center, “In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home” driven by factors such as declining employment, declining marriage and an increase in college enrollment.
If you are considering communal living, it might be a good idea to attend a free budget workshop together before moving in together so you can have an opportunity to discuss financial priorities and have a sense of each other’s finances prior to sharing expenses. You may not be getting married, but sharing expenses can lead to getting stuck with someone else’s debt, which can lead you back to square one.
Finding shelter from the storm:
Sometimes life doesn’t give you an opportunity to plan, sometimes you get hours or minutes instead of days to find a place to sleep. In times like these we rely on the generosity of others. One option is staying temporarily at an emergency shelter in Ocala through the Salvation Army. They offer shelter and have case managers who can help guide you to resources for more stable housing. Another option is to turn to your community, including your place of worship, and see if there is someone you can stay with for a night or two in order to buy some time while you find a home. Other solutions we’ve heard people come up with include camping or sleeping in a friend’s car. If you have or can borrow camping gear, you can find camping sites through Florida State Parks and we have seen websites online which direct you to free campsites in Florida which might be worth checking out. Just make sure before you set up camp to verify that it’s ok to camp there and what the requirements are so you don’t get woken up by the police.
Should I Stay…:
Are you feeling like you have to move because you can’t afford your rent/mortgage, but you haven’t been evicted yet? 2-1-1 staff specialize in helping you explore options and learn about resources, such as mortgage or rent payment assistance, that can help you stay in your home. Mr. Thomas with Marion County Homeless Council shared that “funds are available on a limit basis, to assist Marion residents with rental payments. These programs provide deposit and rent assistance to requestors, who meet the eligibility requirements, as long as funds are available. Appointments are required. Marion residents can dial 2-1-1 for information about agencies who currently offer housing assistance and transitional housing programs.” We can help you see what you qualify for to bring your expenses down, allowing you to focus the income you do have on paying your rent. If you know you won’t be able to afford your current residence on-going, at least this could possibly provide you with a month of time to find a home that is more sustainable for you.
…or Should I Go?
If you get to the point where all options have fallen through and if the community support you need is not in Marion County, sometimes the time comes when it’s time to move. Make sure to reach out to all of your options here though, we want you to stay. 2-1-1 can help you to build that community support by helping you connect to people with similar interests and beliefs. We can tell you about recreation programs, volunteer opportunities, and advocacy groups. You can find groups of every spiritual and aspiritual persuasion, including Islam, Judaism, Atheism and Christianity. Should you get to the point of feeling like you need to re-locate there are some creative ways to get where you are going cheaper. The modern version of hitchhiking is called ride sharing. Some people do this to commute, but some people do it to travel. Craigslist has a category for it in Ocala here. You could offer to drive someone’s car for them if they need a car transported, or you could catch a ride with someone who needs help and company. This website, which offers this service specifically targeted to the Jewish community, has some great tips for safety when ride sharing.