Housing is often a major problem, but there are ways
to improve your chances of finding a good and reasonable place to live.
Adequate housing is crucial to your being able to find and keep a job.
Depending on the circumstances, just having a "roof over the head" may be your only housing option at the moment.
Fortunately, It's almost always possible to find some basic overnight accommodation, and this is certainly better than being completely on the street.
Just about every city and town has one or more overnight housing programs that provide a bed (and sometimes meals) free of charge.
The people running these programs can also give you good information about free or low-cost food, clothing, and other kinds of assistance available in the area.
In some cases, the accommodations have lockers or other safe places to leave your extra clothes and other items, so you won't have to carry these around with you during the day. Many programs will let people who have recently gotten a job continue to stay overnight until they have saved enough for an ongoing room rental.
People sometimes get a little "stir crazy" when staying in an overnight program. So as soon as they get a bit of money they rent a motel room for a "change of pace." Unfortunately, each time they do this, they basically throw away $40-50 a day (or more) that they could be saving for a better housing arrangement later on.
A rented room of your own, including kitchen privileges (or even permission for a hot-plate), is a major step forward. It provides all these advantages:
- a personal mailing address
- a place to prepare inexpensive and nourishing breakfasts and take-out lunches
- the ability to come and go according to your own schedule
- a secure place to keep clothes, important papers, and other personal items
- the enjoyment of "having your own place,” even if it’s only a single room
In looking for rooms, you should make it a daily habit to read the want-ads in the local newspaper to get familiar with the location and asking price for different kinds of room rentals in the area. Private notices on coffee shop or laundromat bulletin boards can also provide good leads.
In comparing two or more available rooms, you will want to consider all of these factors before making a decision:
- the general neighborhood (noisy? potentially dangerous area?)
- location (how close to your job or area where you are job-hunting?)
- monthly rent and any additional charges?
- what furniture is included (bed? dresser? storage space?)
- amount of security deposit and/or first month's rent in advance
- the homeowner's attitude (friendly and professional? grumbly and not very helpful?)
Once you have a job that will make it possible to consistently pay the monthly rent, you may want to check with organizations such as the Salvation Army. They can often help you out with an initial rent payment or first-month deposit, provided you can show them you’re able to handle the regular rent payments on an ongoing basis.
Renting an Apartment
In the housing area, the next step up from your own room would be your own apartment.
Provided you have a steady daily job you have held for at least two or three months and have saved up enough of a nest egg to handle the initial rental costs (as well as to routinely pay the rent every month), you may want to consider getting an apartment.
All the issues you should think about before renting a particular room apply as well to choosing a specific apartment. In addition, an important question is whether you would want to:
- handle the entire rent payment on your own, or
- find a friend to share the apartment and pay part of the rental cost.
In this second case, you will need to choose your rental partner very carefully. This person should :
- be a true and helpful support person who is on the "right track"--NOT a "false friend" who could lead you back into old habits you are trying hard to overcome
- have a steady job and be careful and thrifty in planning about and using money
Exercise: Even if you're not thinking about sharing an apartment with someone else at the moment, do you know one or more people who would make excellent co-renters? What good things would they "bring to the table" in such an arrangement?
Once You Have a Place
Signing the lease for a room or apartment is a great step forward, and one in which you can take considerable pride.
None the less, once the lease is signed, you need to make sure you can consistently pay your rent, month after month.
The only way you can do this is to:
- carefully plan your expenses including the rent payment
- not intentionally or thoughtlessly spend your intended rent money on other things
You should also try to make sure the landlord will want to keep you as a renter. The best way to do this is to pay the rent exactly on time or if possible, a day or two ahead, each and every month.
In addition, if you are renting a room or apartment that needs a little work, you might talk with the landlord and volunteer an hour or two of your time to help with some minor carpentry or other kinds of maintenance.
The important thing is to try to bring some extra value to your relationship with the landlord, so that he or she will want to hold on to you as a tenant, in comparison with other possible renters.