What are my obligations to my soon-to-be homeless mother?

I am going to try to present this situation as succinctly and fairly as I can. My mother is in the process of being evicted from her apartment and will likely be homeless in the next couple of months. For most people, their actions at this point would be obvious, but if that were true for me, I wouldn’t be here asking.

My mother has been unemployed for over two years, so long in fact, that she has used up all of her unemployment benefits. She just turned 60 and has absolutely no retirement savings or any other savings of any kind. To say she is poor at handling money would be a kind assessment of the situation.

She lives in California and my brother and I both live in Arizona. It is a nine hour drive for us to get to her if she needs us for any reason. Several times over the years, we have both suggested that perhaps she should move closer to us to enable us to be available to her, and offered help in doing so. My brother offered her free room and board when she lost her job, until she could get established here and on her feet. My husband and I have suggested the possibility of finding her a low cost 55+ apartment and helping her with the rent, at least for a while. Neither my brother nor I can afford to support her completely or forever. These offers have always been made coinciding with job losses, so we were never asking her to just drop her life and move. She has categorically refused to even consider moving here, even when her unemployment ran out and I suggested it again.

During the two years she has been unemployed, she turned down job offers because they didn’t pay more than unemployment. I admit I got angry when I heard that and told her that since she no longer has children at home, she should have taken one of them and gotten a second part time job to supplement. Sure, that sucks, but you have to do what you have to do.

About a month ago, she called and e-mailed me all panicked, asking that I come up with $1000 to pay her rent within four days. I don’t know how many people could do that, but I can’t. I don’t just happen to have $1000 extra laying around, not with five kids and a mortgage, and cars and a house that seem determined to suck every last cent out of our paychecks. My brother had just closed on his house, and he works for the state and doesn’t make much money. He also pays child support on three kids, so he doesn’t have the money to give her either. Never mind that it only solves the problem for a couple of weeks, until the next time rent is due. Even if I could come up with it once, I can’t do it over and over.

I won’t write the tome it would take to describe my interactions with her over the years. Suffice to say our relationship has never been emotionally healthy. I will say that she tried for years to poison us against our father after their divorce, and I found out 20 years later that almost everything she told me about my dad was a lie. And not from him, from looking through their court records.

The twist here is that there may be a mental health angle. Last year she had health problems, and my brother went to California. He told me her apartment looks like Hoarders. She also has a repeated history of lying, and of telling people only part of the story so it looks a certain way, in order to gain sympathy and help. My dad thinks she may have a mental illness, but frankly, I’ve dealt with her a lot more and I think she has a personality disorder. She’s not out of touch with reality, as in psychosis, and she has been able to hold jobs long term for most of her life. She has always been antisocial though, rarely had any friends, and when not forced to do otherwise, lives like a hermit.

One side of me says that her own choices have led her here, and I have tried so many times to try to help her steer to a better course. She may be my mother, but that hasn’t stopped her from using me and treating me terribly in the past. That side says let her reap the consequences, and if she ends up homeless, it’s on her head. My brother and I have both sent her contact information for local resources in homeless prevention, and specifically veterans homeless prevention, as she served in the Navy for a couple years. We have no idea if she has contacted anyone. She is not answering her phone and all mail is being returned from her address.

The “Catholic guilt” side of me says I will go to Hell if I listen to my dominant voice, especially if she is actually mentally unstable.

Then the other voice chimes in with warnings that rescuing her will impose an unfair burden on my family, especially my kids, and she won’t be grateful for it anyway, and will likely turn verbally abusive. And if I have moved her into my town, I have no way to get away from that. Aside from not knowing how I would even do any of it, the bare fact is that I don’t want to deal with this!

And then the “Catholic guilt” voice comes back and says, yeah, that’s why you’re going to Hell. :frowning:

Do whatever you can (short of enabling a dysfunction) to help her. She is your mother.

We are not obligated to bail people out of the situations in which they find themselves, particularly when those situations have manifested after a series of poor choices. Your first obligation is to your wife and children. Throwing money at a person who is poor at handling money is never a solution.

I’d let your mom know that you’d be happy to take a look at her resumé and help her find suitable places to apply for work. Support her in finding a job.

You may also want to refer her to local-to-her counselling resources that offer a sliding fee scale. Look into Catholic Charities, Interface or Jewish Family Services.

If she refuses the above help and support, you will need to contact adult protective services and inform them that your mother was living in squalor, is now homeless and seems unable to meet her own needs. They will check on your mother and help her access local resources. If she is severely mentally ill, they may institutionalize her.

I just looked up California APS and unless she is disabled, they don’t deal with anyone younger than 65. She’s not physically disabled and hasn’t been classified as disabled in any other way, so I don’t think that’s an option. At 60, she’s too young for many of the options and services I have looked into.

My grandfather’s second wife, who is the sweetest soul in the whole family, apparently got her to answer her phone yesterday, and called me today, concerned and asking if she is mentally stable. My brother and I talked today and he said he is going to try to call her again today, but the last time he tried she wouldn’t answer. I am going to call her apartment complex and make sure she is still there, then I may try to call her as well.

I am beginning to think that the only option I have is to call the police department and ask for a welfare check, and then let the pieces fall from there.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that everyone whose brain is wired in an atypical fashion is incapable of responsible behavior. This is particularly true when you are talking about a pattern of behavior that goes over many years and is responsible only when it suits the person to be responsible.

If your mother lies to you or tries to use guilt trips to get you to do those things which she has the ability and duty to do for herself, then it is fully OK to refuse to help her. The truth is, if you do help her, it is very possible that you would be enabling behavior that damages both of you. Keep that in mind as you decide how you are and are not going to help her. Also, it ought to be obvious that there is no moral requirement to do the impossible. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the money. It would be different if she were unable to make the rent because of factors beyond her control, but it is not as if this rent issue caught her by surprise or came upon her by no fault of her own. More to the point, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that she will amend her ways in any way. You wouldn’t be putting water on a burning building. You’d be putting fuel on it, just a bit more stuff to be destroyed by her choices. The Fourth Commandment doesn’t command you to do that.

For instance, let us say that your mother was a sociopath…that is she uses charm, deceit, and preying upon the pity of others to get what she is totally capable of getting for herself. She would be a person who ignores social contracts, believes the rules don’t apply to her, who can’t stand to lose and can’t admit she’s wrong. There is nothing you can do for someone like this, because they are emotional predators. They will not do for themselves when they think they can get someone else to do it for them. As it is put in though, it is entirely Christian to say, “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” 2 Thes. 3:10 It is definitely OK to refuse to help her if she refuses to do her part.

There is many a heart-broken parent out there who has to apply this kind of thinking to a child who not only fails but refuses to do for themselves what they can do. You need to have the courage to change those things you can, but you are also allowed to have the wisdom to be serene about those changes that are beyond your control.

Thank you for taking the time to come here and share such a painful story. Not only is it painful now, but it sounds like your relationship with her has been painful for years, I am so very sorry.

I would consider calling the police, in fact I thought that was a great idea. If they do a welfare check on her and find unsafe conditions perhaps they can refer her for help. Please don’t worry about going to hell. You have offered your mother what you have to give! You offered to help move her closer to you and your brother and offered to help with rent for a while. That is very loving! You need not feel guilty because what your mother needs, you don’t have or can’t give her. Either she needs someone out there that will pay her rent 100% and take care of her or she needs mental help from social services or Catholic charities. It is not in your power to do either of these things.

Clearly you feel torn, you feel torn between wanting to wash your hands of the whole situation because you are burned out after so many years of difficulties…and yet there is a part of you that holds out a tiny ray of hope that somehow through love you can help her, probably because you want to be a good person and also because there is a part of you that still loves her.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Go to Mass this Sunday and bring your mother with you in your heart. Imagine taking your concerns for her and laying them at the foot of the cross, turn this over to Jesus. Jesus knows exactly what she needs. Pray that he takes care of her. Then do what you can to focus on yourself and heal the wounds in your own heart that has been quite battered over the years. Hope this helps a little, God bless you.

Sounds like she needs a thorough paychiatric evaluation to determine whether she is capable of employment and the daily activities of living. If she’s disabled to the point of being unable to work, there are ways to have her declared indigent and placed in a state nursing home. You will need to talk to an elder law attorney. If she’s just lazy and ornery, there might not be much you can do except pray.

Honoring your mother does NOT mean putting up with her outrageous behavior or paying her bills because she doesn’t feel like working.

As a son, I’d say that her physical needs still must be met, if at all possible. “Honor thy father and mother.”

Though it may be a burden to you, it is your responsibility to help her the best you can without endangering your kids well being. You will not go to hell if you don’t help her, but you will make God sad in the end.

Why? Because he lets his mother have the life she’s chosen for herself? Why should her habitual abuse of her free will be something that God would want her sons to encourage in her?

I don’t think the thing in this story that makes God sad is the refusal of the sons to enable their mother’s self-centeredness. The father in the story of the prodigal son did not go after his starving son. He waited for the son to come home with a repentant heart and a purpose of amendment–treat me as you would one of your servants. The mother is not in need except by her own choices. God’s heart is melted by repentance, but this woman is having none of that. Her eternal soul does not need help down the road she’s choosing.

It is not disrespectful to decline to support and able-bodied family member who refuses to work, not even if it is a parent. The day may come when she will be beyond helping herself, but she is not there yet. Neither does she show any purpose of amendment. It is not out of place to file a missing persons report, but otherwise what can he do for someone who refuses to help herself?

We don’t know the full story. It sounds as though she might have some mental issues that are preventing her from helping herself as fully as she could.

It’s the duty of a son to help their mother. Jesus did.

POD all of the previous posters.

I wanted to add, due to her history, if you decide to help her out, pay bills DIRECTLY to the creditor- ie you call the utilities and pay her account, or send her a giftcard for the grocery store/restaurant, so the money is used for that which it is intended.

He financially supported his ornery, unwilling to work mother?

I’m a firm believer in honoring you mother and father, BUT I am also a firm believer in not giving a drunk a drink.

I agree that a full psychiatric workup is probably needed. That would answer a lot of questions and get some aid from some agencies that she otherwise doesn’t qualify for.

BUT if she’s just lazy and expects others to do for her, then I do not believe you and your brother are under any obligation to support her. Not getting a job when offered one because it doesn’t pay as much as unemployment could be a sign of the entitlement mentality. And, as you said, giving her money to pay her rent this month is only going to fix the problem temporarily. She’s living above her means.

And it sounds like you’ve offered to help – move her closer to you and/or your brother, assist with a modest apartment until she can get things stabilized – and she’s refused. So I don’t know what else you can do other than continue to make that offer. I would not let her move in with either your family (and would encourage your brother the same) because it will be very hard to get her out, and it could add a terrible strain to your nuclear family – and your first priority is to your family.

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” * Matt. 12:46-50
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.
2 Thes. 3:10

Our Lady was not just a human mother. She was the model for all the saints, the new Eve and therefore, by her exemplary and total obedience, the new Mother for all of humankind. When Our Lord took care of his mother from the Cross, he was taking care of us more than he was taking care of her.

I’m not saying that the OP should not investigate what is up with his mom, but if his account is honest, this is not a sudden mental status change. This is not a person who is incapable of working. This is also a person who has given herself a history of using deceit to get what she wants. This is also not a person who is abjectly waiting, hoping that she will be invited to live near her loving sons so they can take care of her. No, she didn’t want that, and she didn’t want a chance to earn her own livelihood, either. This is somebody who is using blood ties to get money she did not want to work for. Not love, not mutual care…money.

Now, it is fair to point out that people who spend a lifetime making bad choices for which they are responsible are not immune to mental disorders that remove culpability. If anything, many of the bad choices out there will ruin your ability to think straight, yes. Having said that, she needs to be free to make her own choices, even if her choices make her suffer. Her sons can’t live her life for her, and filial piety does not make them responsible for keeping her actions from having their natural consequences. They have offered her reasonable help, and she doesn’t want it. They are not bound to give her the exact kind of help that she wants.

So, while filial piety does require that the OP and his brother take more care for their mother than for a complete stranger, it does not require them to enable behavior that, continued to its logical and unrepented end, will be the total ruin of her soul. If they come to believe that she really cannot help herself, then they’ll have to try to get a court to see it that way, and take guardianship of her. Until then, there is a real limit to what they can do without her consent, as well as a limit on what she can demand of them with no efforts made on her own behalf.

Your Bible quotes are out of context with this situation, and you are obviously set in your opinion of the matter. I repeat: A son should take care of his mother, to the best extent that he can. That is my opinion.

And that’s fine that that is your opinion, but the OP has offered his mother aid already. She has refused it. His primary responsibility is to his immediate family. He is not a wealthy man. He is not required to subsidize his mother’s life after years of poor financial choices and an unwillingness to work.

If she is too ill to work, indeed, he should put her in touch with the correct mental health and elder care services. It does not sound like she would or could live with him in his own home without serious discord and financial strain. As a mother, I’d never hit up my adult child for financial assistance. I’d live a pauper’s life and woek until I dropped dead before I asked my son with a young family to float me.

The OP is FEMALE. Have you even read her post?

This is not about your opinion, or even mine, but doing what is right for Mother. Right, not convenient, not easy. Right.

What the right thing actually is needs prayer and consideration and may not be so immediately apparent, especially at a distance.

Not to be nit picky, but I believe the OP is a woman. :blush:

Who are you to say that this woman and her husband have not done this already to the best of their ability? But you are right about the fact that this is your opinion, based on your own interpretation of the situation. However, the OP may have a different outlook.

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