|Housing is a critical starting point. When your housing is secure, your chances of survival are exponentially increased. You have a place to sleep and to store food and supplies, a place to stay relatively warm or cool. Even if the unthinkable happens and there is no heat, electricity or running water, you can get by. Think about how Our Lord lived. Think about how He was born in a stable. Then fast forward to our founding fathers. They did OK.
Where Will You Live?
From looking at a statistical analysis of who visits my website, I know that many of readers live all over the world. Some live in urban areas, others in the country and still others in the suburbs. Where is the ideal place to live?
Cities are difficult only because of the challenges of finding food and staying safe. If you live in a building where there is a close knit group of neighbors, you may be just fine. It is possible to do a little roof gardening, and stealth gardening in public places is also an option. Long ago I lived in the heart of New York City, and my roommates and I actually grew some vegetables by stealth in a planting area right in front of Madison Square Garden. Before things get bad, make a connection with groups like Green Guerillas to learn how to network so you’re not viewed as a Johnny-come-lately interloper later on. This is especially important for parish groups. And, of course, there are plenty of pigeons if you know how to catch them.
While some may think it that living on a farm is best, I personally think it makes you a target for gangs and for a government that might be forced to take over private holdings for the greater good. Farm land is now at a premium and in speaking with friends who live in the nation’s heartland, real estate prices are skyrocketing, mostly due to the frightening shortage of stored grain and the new bio-fuel craze.
Ideally, in the coming years, it would probably be best to live in a remote part of the country where you can eke out a subsistence living without being noticed, somewhere without extremes in weather, somewhere with water.
In some ways, the suburbs may be a good choice. Nearly everyone has a little bit of land on which to grow something and in most cases neighbors know one another and may be likely to band together in times of crisis. Now would be an excellent time to start a neighborhood group if you don’t already have one. Start by initiating a “casual” conversation - a “what if” conversation just to plant a seed. If there is interest, you can take it forward. Proceed carefully because (1) you don’t want your neighbors thinking you’re nuts, (2) you don’t want to pique the interest of someone who might take advantage of you later. In building community among neighbors in a suburban setting, you will have the advantage of pooling resources for larger acquisitions and you’ll be able to barter. For example, you have seeds to share, but a bad back, and your strong, young neighbor has a pitchfork but no seeds, you can make a deal. He digs your garden up, you give him seeds for his.
Relocation: Finding Bargains in the Foreclosure Market
For most of us, relocation isn’t an option financially, but in this time of crisis, it just might be within your reach. Although it is awful to think about, the subprime crisis and lowered interest rates make this an excellent time to buy foreclosure properties if you can afford to.
Before I go into this section further, let me state that I am conflicted about including it. On one hand, it seems like one is piggy-backing on someone else’s misery by buying property this way. No one wants to toss a widow who can’t afford to pay her taxes out on her ear. On the other hand, there are many individuals who have literally walked away from their homes because they realize how terribly over-extended they are by excesses in luxuries. Let your conscience be your guide in this area and examine each on a case by case basis.
Back to the opportunities. Right now you can find over 1,500,000 properties throughout the United States that are in pre-foreclosure, foreclosure, offered in sheriff’s sales, bankruptcy sales, and for satisfaction of tax liens. There are suburban areas, country locations, and everything in between. If you can’t swing it on your own, consider putting together a a group of friends and family who are willing to pool resources. It can be done at this time without much of an investment.
There are several sources that you can use to search properties. These two are the most reputable and each offers a free week long trial: Realty Store and Foreclosures.com
If you do pool resources, be sure you hammer out a very clear legal agreement with all involved, including the responsibilities of each member and consequences for default on paying taxes.
Who Will Live With You?
Wherever you live, you will need a place to gather in prayer, to create community. Create community? Absolutely. Small families might have been the preferential design for a consumer society, but in a crisis setting, you need numbers. Not too many, but enough.
You will need a diversity of skills from cooking, carpentry, gardening, nursing and even hunting and fishing. Several family members might be pressed into finding subsistence jobs when jobs are at a premium and the pay is lower than we could ever imagine. In a worst case scenario, you might have to forage for food and water, and possibly defend the family unit from violent attacks by thieves and others.
Families with small children or the frail elderly will need extra members to help look after them while others go out to work. Perhaps someone in your family or small faith group has fallen into the subprime trap and is in danger of losing his or her home. Maybe that was stupid and greedy of them. Get over it. They know it. You know it. Forgive one another. Do not judge. Move on. We all need to look after one another, to love one another.
Again, if you need to move in with friends or family, or if they need to move in with you, be very clear about expectations and obligations before the arrangement is finalized. If possible, put it in writing.
Who will have the final say on energy usage?
What about a division of labor? Will chores be assigned to each member?
What behaviors are unacceptable? Smoking, drinking, illicit relationships can all bring a great deal of stress into the home.
What are the consequences for disruptive behavior?
What about rules for visitors? You will want to become very firm about this because “visitors” can sometimes end up becoming permanent fixtures whether you like it or not and the situation can rapidly deteriorate.
Delineate expectations for monetary contributions or in lieu of cash, goods like food, fuel, and other necessities.
What happens if due to job loss, it is no longer possible to contribute?
What happens if someone becomes critically ill with an infectious disease that can threaten the mortality of everyone in the house? Will you care for that person or bring them to a public facility?
What happens if someone becomes mentally unstable and disruptive?
What if someone whose services to the group becomes pregnant and is unable to work? Who will pick up the slack?
Making decisions about a wide variety of contingencies in advance will prevent many problems later on.
Will your living group be faith based? If there is an economic chastisement, will you want only those who are firm in their faith?
Will your group be the equivalent of Saint Benedict’s fleeing to the desert to keep the faith pure and alive for the future?
Will allowing others in open the door to dissent and spiritual divisiveness?
Or will your group be open to helping anyone in need, with the faith that your example can plant a seed?
Will you agree upon spiritual disciplines for the community as a whole: whether it is the Liturgy of the Hours, reading the Bible at set times, the recitation of the rosary, and grace before and after meals.
You will want to be sure that your home has blessed candles, blessed salt and lots of holy water on hand no matter what decision you make.
Don’t Lose Your Housing
No matter where you live, do whatever you must to keep a roof over your head. Make an effort to pay your rent or mortgage before you pay any other bills and even before you buy food. If you have to sublet rooms or take in family members, which as we discussed can be beneficial, do it.
If you rent, pay your rent before anything else. Build a solid relationship with your landlord. You might even be able to barter repair or maintenance services for a break if you need to. Talk to your landlord to see if you can establish an agreement so that if he or she defaults on the mortgage, you might be considered as a potential buyer first.
No matter what you have to do, make sure your housing is secure. Sell your luxury items if you need to. Jewelry, a car, a boat won’t be worth much if you have nowhere to live.
Talk with family members and friends about a “what if” scenario. Feel them out now before it’s too late.
Copyright 2008 Christine Hirschfeld Catholic Home and Garden All Rights Reserved