I am a single mom, don’t get child support, and have many bills to pay. I was turned in to a collections agency by a hospital. Financially, I am hurting and worried about feeding and housing my daughter. Please help me.

You have both immediate and longer-term situations to address. Short term, you have to put food on the table for you and your daughter and provide shelter and basic needs for both of you. You need income. A source of temporary short-term income can be programs for which you apply through the department of social services or other charitable organizations that offer food assistance, medical insurance, rental and energy assistance, and sometimes cash assistance. Contact your county department of social services to apply for immediate help of this nature. Also be sure to ask them about private organizations in your area that may be available to you such as food pantries and housing assistance and energy assistance programs.

The Women Infants and Children (WIC) program is an excellent source of food assistance for women who are pregnant or who have young children at home, but this will probably be a separate application at a different agency than the department of social services (check your local phone directory for contact information). Churches are also a source for short-term immediate assistance (usually for a limited time), and you do not need to attend a given church to ask for help from them. After getting some non-work income and support in place, you need stable income for the longer term, which means employment.

You should be able to access a job service that can connect you with local job opportunities and/or workforce training programs. Ask the department of social services for the location and contact information of the job services program near you. Until you are stable, the answer to the credit collection attempt is just plain “I have no money to give you at this time.” Pay no attention to the collection call threats of legal action; they are just trying to intimidate you into making a payment that you cannot afford right now.

You can even stop answering the calls all together or write them a “do not call letter” (see www.fair-debt-collection.com/searches/stop-collection-calls.html). You might consider a credit counseling agency’s help in addressing past debts. You should not attempt to pay debts while not being able to feed your child and provide basic needs. Not-for-profit credit counseling agencies are very helpful in creating a repayment plan for you when you get to that place in your life where you could take on a repayment plan. Visit www.credit.org/ as a starting point.

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