Do you need help with grants, federal aid, scholarships or ways to find money for school? Lots of companies want to help you, often for a fee you don't have. And searching for help online can get very confusing quickly.
At a loss? So are a lot of other people. Maybe you need to know where you can find local service agencies. What if you desperately need help right away to make home repairs that affect your health and safety, or help to feed your children, pay medical bills, find a place to live or get a job.
There are many services available. We tell you how to find them. We also let you know what you may really find. It may not be what you want to hear - or what you think a politician promised.
You just are not going to find an agency where you just sign up and receive money to pay bills or erase credit card debt. But with some effort you can find aid and people who will help you help yourself.
Use the information below to find help whether you have a need that is urgent or you have a little more time to spend going through an application process. Beware of people who offer to help you for a fee. All the resources we cover here are free of charge.
If you're tempted to spend some of the last of your scarce cash on a book about Free Money be sure first to take a (free) look at our review of one of the most highly publicized book: Kevin Trudeau's Free Money "They" Don' t Want You To Know About. We bought it and read it so we could tell you exactly what you'll find (inclduing what's good about it).
Not in a crisis? Read our review of the benefits.gov website. Complete the questionnaire. It covers your whole situation. It will identify government aid available to you. For repairs to your home for health and safety, see our article about resources to help you repair your home.
Disabled or caring for someone who is? An excellent site can help you find resources and support. Read our review and user guide for disability.gov.
Is your need urgent? There are local resources that you can call and visit in person. You may need to swallow your pride to do this. There is nothing wrong with needing help. People provide help because they care about you. Leave any attitude at home and take advantage of what is offered.
Finally, did you graduate college recently? There's a new repayment plan that could lower your monthly debt payments. See our January 2013 Free Money Newsletter.
Here are some more resources we recommend:
It's like 9-1-1. In 90% of the country, dialing 2-1-1 puts you in touch with someone who can help you find local help for your needs. It's not available everywhere but does claim to cover 90% of the population and to reach all 50 states.
The number of organizations offering services is increasing. But finding them and knowing which one can help you can get confusing. By dialing 2-1-1 you can talk to a human being and explain your situation. They can then provide information about what is available where. The types of services covered include basics like food, clothing and shelter, including
- help with rent and paying utility bills;
- help finding a job, getting transportation to and from work, receiving job training and being sure you are getting any unemployment benefits you are entitled to;
- finding good childcare and after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring services, and access to government programs like Head Start;
- identifying sports, recreation programs and summer camps your children might attend;
- getting help with health-related issues whether they are physical or mental. These might include counseling and support groups along with Medicare and Medicaid and other health insureance issues, children's programs, and problems related to drug and alcohol abuse; and
- assistance for seniors and people with disabilities including help with transportation, programs like Meals on Wheels, respite care, in-home help services related to health or basic homemaking services, and adult day-care service offerings.
Local Community Services
If you don't have 2-1-1 in you can go and talk to lots of widely available service agencies yourself. It may not be fun but it can work. They may or may not be able to help you, but they can refer you to another organization that could help. To find these agencies do an online search including the name of your city, county or state; look up community services in your telephone book; or go to a library and ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.
Here are some of the most promising organizations to approach:
Community Service Agency is often the name of local outfits providing food, clothing, job assistance, and more. They typically provide direct support (including pajamas and gifts during the holiday season) and may also be able to refer you elsewhere.
YMCA or YWCA: These are in lots of local communities. They often provide local support services and pride themselves on building strong communities, individuals and families.
Religious Organizations: Even if you haven't been inside a church, temple, mosque or other religious building for a long time - or ever - they exist to support their community of faith. The definition of that “community” typically includes those who are not “members”, and most provide some sort of service to the community. They also have ties to many local service agencies.
The Salvation Army: You may know them best as the folks ringing bells outside retail stores during the holiday season. Their mission is to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ and serve the needs of others in Jesus' name, with no discrimination. Don't be afraid of getting preached at(it might be a good thing!). These people want to help you and they provide lots of critical services in thousands of communities.