About four years ago, I did some volunteer work at a local food pantry. My job is interviewing prospective users of the pantry which included an in-depth discussion of the budget and finances. I remember one day having to look up the federal poverty rate and having epiphany that I was below it.

That’s right, I could have not only been using the food pantry I volunteered at but I could have also taken advantage of some of these programs I had been talking to people about.

I thought it would be interesting to look up some of the programs I used to know well to see who would qualify for them now. Yesterday, I tackled¬†food and health programs and today I’m talking housing.

Circuit Breaker Program
Paying 20% or more of your income on rent? Maine’s Circuit Breaker program may be able to help you out. Click here if you want to read the whole post I wrote about it or download the application. (Just a heads up: You have to apply by May 1st.) Not in Maine? Check to see if your state has something like this.

Heating Assistance
LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistnce program) is regulated by states and some programs are even decided at the local level so it’s hard to give some hard figures for who qualifies. Your local town office is a good place to start and a full list of contact people by state can be found here.

Low Income Housing
There are three seperate programs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Basically, these programs seem to be for people who spend more then 30% of their income on housing. Of course, the HUD site is ginourmous but if you click on your state, you’ll see opportunities for homeowners (money for home repairs, home buying classes, etc.) and for renters (directory of substidized apartments, help with utility bills, etc.).

What I thought was going to be purely curiosity research turned into an exercise of realizing my good fortune. I am glad that these programs exist for those who qualify, and I do hope if you’re reading this and you find out you qualify for these programs that you pursue it. Because trust me, most of us have been there.*

*I’ve been thinking about people who work the system and I’ve certainly run across them in my travels. Once a woman and her mother interviewed with my friend and I seperately at the food pantry, each claiming the same children as dependents so they could get more vouchers. Right after this happened (I was furious having been lied to), a woman came in whose husband was in the hospital. She so clearly did not want to be there but didn’t know what else to do. And you know what? I realized that helping that one person was worth losing a few vouchers to scammers. . .

Read How Poor Are You? Part I…