A new puzzle for personal finance experts, that is on the bottom end of the ladder rather than the top. A series of unfortunate events has hit a friend (not me). The situation:

  • recently divorced
  • lost her job as an admin at a legal firm
    • unwittingly signed something stating she left of her own accord, preventing her from getting unemployment insurance
  • has run out of savings
  • deadbeat dad (no alimony or child support yet, in fact, there's a restraining order on him for good reason)
  • parents unable to help financially and have no spare rooms
  • behind on 3 months rent to her brother-in-law who appears bent on evicting her
  • the state is California
  • has a 2-year-old child

Things discovered so far:

  • Women, Infants, Children program
  • CalFresh is the California implementation of SNAP
  • CalWorks is the California implementation of TANF
  • Head Start appears to provide some food/etc benefits for people with children under 5
  • Federally funded CSBG appears to have a provider in the area
  • I've already helped some financially in the short term, but that can't last indefinitely.
  • Looking into pro bono legal help to force child support or alimony, but that probably won't kick in soon enough.


  • length of time before these programs kick in
  • she has a car that might be over the $3000 limit on property to qualify for welfare. i don't think she's attached to the car, but that would be a horrible step to have to sell the car quickly at firesale prices to move forward with bureaucracy. also, the car seems necessary to go to these offices to sign up in person, as many do not appear to have online signup (or online signup might be slower, and her address may change after eviction)
  • where she can stay if evicted before programs kick in (for unrelated reasons, my place doesn't work, as much as i wish it did).

Thank you all for the help.

  • 3
    Until one has a job, finding a job is a high, perhaps top, priority.
    – keshlam
    Jan 9, 2015 at 3:24
  • 1
    A lot of this sounds like Who can this person depend on? and until someone is self-reliant, that will only hurt them more in the long run. Top priority would be to gain financial independence through work. Jan 9, 2015 at 12:39
  • 1
    If the car is worth too much, trade it in for a cheaper one. You won't get the best deal at a used car shop, but if you go to a well reputed one you'll get a reasonable offer in a reasonably quick amount of time... then at least pay a few months' rent.
    – Joe
    Jan 9, 2015 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


She should call 211. This is exactly how they help.

The 2-1-1 service is run by the United Way, a nonprofit organization. The 2-1-1 service strives to be a clearinghouse for services within a local area.

  • 1
    This answer need more details, especially for the non-California part of the community. Jan 9, 2015 at 22:00

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