Today’s question is from a Patreon donor I’ll call Star who is getting kicked out of their home by their parents. It will include a lot of discussions about abusive parental relationships, so please be forewarned.
Star is in a Patreon tier that guarantees we will answer one question. We often do so privately, as the circumstances are often quite particular. But sometimes we post them publicly as articles if we think they would be helpful to others. That’s the case with today’s letter.
Hello! I just became a Patron. I’m currently in a situation where my family has been threatening to kick me out of the house. I just turned eighteen two weeks ago, so my adult legs are a bit wobbly. I’m trying to save up for a car, as that’s most important to me right now. My question is: Do you queen genius Bitches know if there’s any way I could get government assistance? Or any advice as to how I can move out from my abusive home on my own terms, but as soon as possible? Thank you in advance.
We’re so sorry you’re in this situation.
Eighteen has to be the most fraught age for the relationship between children and parents. It’s normal for once-loving family relationships to feel strained as you all struggle to adjust to the transformation from dependent child to independent adult.
But it is not normal for parents to hang the threat of homelessness and poverty over their teenage child’s head. I really wish you weren’t going through this, weren’t getting kicked out.
Piggy and I are here in your corner with you, Star. And so is every other BGR reader. We have a substantial population of Hip Mom™ readers, and I am hyper-aware of them right now, because I can feel their simmering rage at reading your letter. It’s warming my keyboard. Ow ow ow!
I hope you have a lot of people in your corner besides us, both because you deserve love and support, and because we’re dumbasses who will probably get plenty of this wrong.
But we’re going to do everything we can to help you regardless as you’re being kicked out. Let’s get into it.
We stan your plan
Setting your sights on a car is probably a good idea.
For one, it’s the idea that you have—and people are pretty good at identifying their own needs, even if they’re poor. Incredible how that works!
But I independently concur because a car is a precious tool for folks who, like Star, are getting kicked out. Sure, it’s expensive. Gas, insurance, maintenance, the vehicle itself… these things do not come cheap. But they’re probably worth it.
For readers who haven’t been kicked out… I want you to imagine you’re a teenager. You feel trapped in the house with someone who makes you feel defeated and small on a regular basis. And now Something’s Happened. The tension in the household is rising. The person you are materially dependent on is yelling, crying, threatening, withholding… What are your options to escape, right now, in this one moment of crisis, before you get kicked out?
- Call someone to come and get you? (Your self-esteem is in the gutter, so calling someone in the middle of the night to beg them to come get you probably feels shameful, presumptuous, an overreaction, or all of the above.)
- Pay a cab or driving service to come get you? (Requires you to have money and a phone. And you can only take a limited number of things with you, often not including important things like a bed to sleep in, enough clothing to wear, your pet, etc.)
- Take public transportation? (Same issues as above. Plus it’s only available in some areas, at some times, going to a limited number of destinations.)
- Ask your abuser for a ride? (Well, they can refuse. Or the request can “set them off” and kick off a fresh round of hell. Both of those reactions strengthen the existing dynamic and weaken your resolve to leave before getting kicked out.)
- Leave on foot, or on a bicycle? (Fuck, son, if you’re in danger, IDGAF if you leave on roller skates or a riding lawn mower or a camel. Just get your ass outta there. But if you live in a remote area, or one that’s unsafe for single pedestrians, or struck with cold or wet weather, this is admittedly a pretty discouraging option.)
- … and then what? (If you remove yourself in the short term, how will the abusive parent react in the long term? Lock you out? Damage or throw away your belongings? Turn others against you by crying and fabulizing what happened? Push you off family plans for phones or health insurance? Refuse to participate in activities that would increase your independence, like cosigning an apartment lease or coughing up your Social Security Card? These are just some of the possibilities when you’re dealing with an abusive parent. And there are worse ones.)
When you look at each of those options, it’s easy to see why people like Star make the choice to try to brace themselves and endure before the get kicked out. But Star is doing a brave and wonderful thing: trying to craft an escape plan. And a car is a great aspect of that plan.
Fixing the transportation issue before getting kicked out
Transportation, like money, is an essential tool of personal autonomy. It’s really hard to control your life if you cannot control where you are, spatially.
Cars allow someone in a situation like Star’s to…
- Escape in the short-term. (When I was your age, I spent a lot of my worst nights driving to an abandoned barn to sit in contented solitude, watching the moon rise while listening to album after album on my Bronze Age CD player. I SSDGMed, obviously.)
- Escape in the medium-term. (Showing up at a friend’s doorstep, asking to stay for a night or two is psychologically and logistically easier than asking them to come pick you up.)
- Escape in the long-term. (You can pack your things and move to a new place, a new city, a new state if you have your own ride.)
- Broaden the number of jobs to which you can apply.
- Broaden the number of apartments and living situations available to you.
- Improve your school and job performance. (Long commuting hours and potential tardiness are chronic issues for people who have to rely on others for transportation.)
- Emergency shelter. (Sleeping in your car is obviously not ideal. But it’s much better than sleeping under a bridge—or under the same roof as your abuser.)
So we are into this “getting a car” plan! We wrote a two-parter on this subject, so please check it out.
- Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 1: How to Choose Your Car
- Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 2: How to Pay for Your Car
In general, our advice is calibrated to people in slightly more stable conditions than Star’s. Ideally, someone who wants to buy a car will shop slowly and cautiously for a used car that they can pay for upfront.
But honey, this ain’t an ideal situation. So chuck all that shit out of the window if you have to.
When your mental health and physical safety are on the line, it may be worth it to compromise. Take the car with more miles than you wished. Take the loan at a higher interest rate than you wanted. These are relatively inconsequential financial “mistakes.” You will have the rest of your life to address them.
Fixing the housing issue before getting kicked out
We wrote another guide on getting kicked out of the house before (or just after) reaching the age of majority. It covers topics like legal emancipation, housing, shelters, and emergency plans.
There’s a lot of advice that’s relevant to your situation, so please give it a read. In particular, I want to reiterate two pieces of advice from that article.
First: consider all of your options for living somewhere else. If your impulse is to dismiss those options quickly, ya need to stop and recognize something: Abusive people train you to disregard, ignore, and fear opportunities to leave them. You’re like a rat in a maze. They’re like a demented scientist, shocking you each time you sniff the exit. It doesn’t take many repetitions for you to stop reaching for change.
Second: Get your hands on necessary legal documents before you leave. You will have an uphill battle getting things like credit cards, student loans, an apartment lease, or an auto loan at your age without a parent’s cosignature. Don’t make it even harder by leaving without your birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, health insurance information, etc.
Fixing the isolation issue before getting kicked out
If I could wave my magic wand (cedarwood, twelve inches, reasonably supple) and give Star one gift, it would be the gift of community.
Star’s situation is a really scary and overwhelming one for persons of any age. But Star is young. The people who are in the best position to help them are the ones hurting them. Their peers probably lack the life experience to understand what’s going on—and are themselves too young to have much ability to help. And that sounds like an incredibly isolating situation.
The potential for abuse in isolation
Isolation is the most useful tool in an abusive person’s toolkit. I can’t say if abusers understand this consciously or unconsciously… but they absolutely understand it. Whether it’s family or romantic partners, the cycle is the same: the more isolated you are, the greater control they have over you; the more control they have over you, the more effective their punishments become. It’s what professionals in the industry call “a real fukkin shit spiral.”
Additionally, isolation is the most insidious and damaging symptom of depression. When you’re depressed, what you need most is to name what you feel in a conversation with someone who wants to help you. But the crazy, fucked-up thing about depression is that it tricks you into thinking you can’t (or shouldn’t) ask for that help; that by speaking your feelings aloud, you are losing, giving up, or burdening others.
Star, you don’t say that you’re depressed—but that’s a sturdy-ass limb I’m prepared to go out on! Internal and external forces are probably working together to trick you into trying to handle all of this alone.
And on that note, here’s some of what we’ve written on mental health:
- Our Master List of 100% Free Mental Health Self-Care Tactics
- How Mental Health Affects Your Finances
- Stop Recommending Therapy Like It’s a Magic Bean That’ll Grow Me a Beanstalk to Neurotypicaltown
- Everything Is Stressful and I’m Dying: How to Survive a Panic Attack
I’m encouraged by the fact that you’re open about looking for assistance in the form of our social safety net. That’s awesome.
For a list of government, state, and charitable programs to investigate, check out Piggy’s awesome article on this subject:
I promise you will have more money, more stability, more independence, and more agency as you move out of your teenage years. So now is not the time to prove how self-reliant and adult-like you can be. Don’t hold onto the trump card of asking for help, whether from Uncle Sam or your actual IRL uncle.
Ask your favorite teacher for advice. Ask your friends to talk to their parents for you. Hell, ask your librarian to point you towards good community resources. Are your parents estranged from anyone in their family? Check those people out—they might be estranged because they know damn well what your parents are like!
There may be someone who’s hanging back, watching you nervously, not wanting to interfere, but hoping you’ll ask them for help if you need it.
You have to trust me on this one. Going it alone sometimes feels like a stronger, more mature decision. But this is untrue. It is a trick. And it’s designed to hurt you.
There is no beautiful woman around the corner. Yes, I know you see a shapely stockinged leg waggling; yes, I know you can hear a throaty “yoohoo!” But it’s Bugs Bunny in drag, and he’s holding a rope tied to a big damn anvil, and he will drop it on your head, because I’ve seen his ass do it a million times.
Now please STOP giving us money
Finally, thank you so much for being a new Patreon donor. Patreon will bill you for the first time at the end of the month, I think. And once that happens, we lovingly request that you stop being our Patreon donor.
Today is a banner month for Piggy and I. This month, for the first time ever, we paid ourselves for the work we do on Bitches Get Riches. It came out to about, hmm, let me just slide my abacus beads around… oh. $2.50 an hour. WELL! Aren’t WE high-fiving a million angels!?
The donor-supported model is finally working to the point that we can cut checks for ourselves. They are hilariously tiny checks, but they are still checks! It’s nowhere near what we could get with sponsored posts from big companies, but it’s clean money we can feel good about accepting. And yours is exactly the kind of money we don’t want.
Who we can and can’t accept money from
We want money from people in situations like these…
We’d even accept a small amount from teenagers like this…
… but from you?
No. Absolutely not.
Don’t make me figure out how to refund your donation, because I am reasonably certain that’s a button I saw once somewhere and I am not afraid to spend twenty minutes aimlessly clicking around Patreon’s back end until I find it.
Someday, Star, you will live in your own place and drive your own car. You will have your family somewhere between arm’s length and twenty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole length. You’ll have an okay job, and you’ll be reading our articles for advice on how to alley-oop up to a more-than-okay one. On that day, we promise we’ll take your money. Hell, we’ll snatch it out of your hand at a socially unacceptable speed!
But today is not that day.
Bless your heart for wanting to support us, even during such challenging times. You have no idea how much we appreciate it. Knowing that you respect us that much is enough.
Well, I just threw $12 out the window. And that ain’t nothing, that’s brow-threading money! Perhaps that was a stupid thing to do, but it feels like the right thing. So readers, here’s what I want to ask you…
- Are you in a pretty good place? (And jfc are ya safe?)
- Have you leveraged our advice into greater happiness and stability?
- Do you value having a source for adulting advice that’s free from paid advertising and sponsored content?
- Did you follow our scripts to ask for a raise or nail interview questions at a new job?
- Do you want us to keep talking about these kinds of subjects? Those that so rarely get talked about in personal finance media?
- Do we give you quality lols?
- Are you better equipped to voluntarily pay for something than an 18-year-old child being kicked out of her abusive household? Mon dieu, my poor heart…
If so, please become a Patreon donor! Yours is the money we want.
Thanks to Star for writing. Readers, if there’s any other good tips you want to lay on Star, please add them into the comments below. In particular, I have never been on government assistance programs personally, so my direct knowledge is more limited. We would greatly appreciate any tips on expediting the process!