What to do for a homeless family member? Recovery tools for a loved one in a crisis

The distressed phone call

Recently a friend contacted me because her daughter, Laura, and her boyfriend had broken up. They had been sharing a tiny apartment with his relatives and now she was asked to leave. Laura, who was drinking heavily, was stranded in a rural area with no car, no friends, and few resources, except for her monthly disability check and a dog she dearly loved.

Laura lived out of state. Because of poor health, Laura’s mom wasn’t free to leave and rescue her daughter once again. And she didn’t want her to return home to regroup.

Truly faced with homelessness: What to do?

This wasn’t the first time that Laura’s back was against the wall. It had happened before. Each time, my friend agonized over what to do and what not to do. Facing the reality that one’s child might become homeless is daunting. We live a dangerous world. What’s a mother to do?

I suggested that my friend contact social services in the county where her daughter currently resides. I also reminded her that tools of a twelve-step program for loved ones could help her navigate these muddy waters. Here are a few that might help.

Tool #1: Think

In a panic mode during a crisis, it’s easy to overreact. Visions of a son or daughter sleeping under a bridge, scavenging for food, or getting into a fight are downright scary.

The urge to prevent these risky events is powerful. After all, parents are programmed to protect their children. However, rather than react, it might be best to exert self-control. Do and say nothing until things calm down.

Tool #2: Pray

Better to think before one speaks and pray before one acts. The “Serenity Prayer” almost always provides solace.

Tool #3: Easy Does It

This tool can help prevent an explosion of angry words and recriminations. It can guide a loved one toward a less frantic state of mind. It can slow down the pace of worry and obsession. Reaching out to others for support is a form of self-care that rescues a loved one from drowning in an emotional tsunami.

Tool #4: Just for Today

Several years ago, when I faced a crisis with my adult son, my sponsor gave me a “Just for Today” bookmark. (I keep it handy at all times.) Several sentences are relevant during a crisis.

  • “I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime.”

  • “I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax.”

  • “I will have a program. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision.”

Other slogans such as “Let Go and Let God,” “Keep an open mind,” and “One day at a time,” help lift a loved one’s thoughts and emotions out of a confused state in order to better endure a family crisis.


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