I think my co-worker is living out of his car

Your Life
Jim Berlucchi
April, 2015

Q: One of my co-workers has had a few financial setbacks, and I think he’s living out of his car – I see it parked in a local grocery at all hours of the day, and it is filled with clothes and boxes. Is there some way I can help him without offending him?

A: Your question reveals your kindness – both in your desire to help (Christian charity) and your sensitivity to his feelings (respecting his dignity). Kudos to you on both counts.

The fact that he’s holding down a job indicates that he’s able to maintain some kind of equilibrium, but living out of one’s car is a pretty desperate situation. Be mindful that simply giving financial help could be insufficient and perhaps even counterproductive. He likely needs more significant help.

Since you’re aware of his financial setbacks, I presume he knows that you know. That should make it easier for you to raise the subject – ask him how things are going and if, in confidence and as a friend, you can be of any help. If he opens up, prepare yourself for more than a single meeting.

Be realistic about what you can offer in advance of your meeting. Lead with your heart, but don’t forget your head. Consider what practical help you might be able to offer. Also, I recommend that you contact Catholic Charities to explore what this agency might bring to the table (and advice for you as well).

Finally, I would avoid at least two things. One, don’t reveal the problem to any of your colleagues (respecting his dignity). Two, don’t just give a loan. It will likely not be repaid and, for that reason, could make you resentful.

“Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure.” (Sirach 6:14)