Los Angeles woman with master's degree in engineering describes how she became homeless overnight

Originally published at: Los Angeles woman with master's degree in engineering describes how she became homeless overnight | Boing Boing


Her house burned down and she had no insurance?

(I’m not unsympathetic to her plight. Just asking. And if it IS the case, that’s just crazy. Nobody should take that risk/underwrite it themselves unless they have HUGE resources in reserve. If you cannot afford house insurance, sell! Glib and easy to say, I know, but downsizing/renting has to be better than experiencing that loss and ending up homeless. And she worked for an insurance adjuster!!)


Or she couldn’t afford insurance. Or she did have insurance but it didn’t pay out enough to cover her housing needs. Lots of ways to fall through the cracks.


My sister works for an insurance agency in SC; they do not provide health insurance for their employees, and she gets her car and house insurance from USAA (our father was a veteran) because it’s much less expensive than that sold by her employer. I would guess this woman could not afford the insurance, and just from the bits we learned in the interview, it seems she was education-rich as long as she worked from home; homeless, not so much.


Well, I did suggest what the solution is to not affording it. It is a crazy risk to take.
And being underinsured is also bad, but at least it would have paid out enough not to be immediately homeless, unless she was so under-insured as to effectively have none.


If you’re living in the United States and below a certain income level it’s nearly impossible to avoid taking crazy risks, the only question is which aspects of your health and safety you’re going to roll the dice on in an effort to scrape by.

Sometimes it’s putting off home and automotive maintenance. Sometimes it’s putting off that doctor visit in the hopes that an ailment will get better on its own instead of turning into something much worse. Sometimes it’s skimping on insurance in the hopes you won’t need it. Being poor can be very expensive.


Exactly. It’s the boot theory writ large.


home insurance that covers fire may be cost prohibitive in that area due to high probability of wildfire. much like home insurance that covers wind and flooding is extremely expensive here in hurricane highway, florida. the max you can afford might still leave you devastated.
but having no insurance at all? unthinkable (and not allowed if you are on a mortgage loan).


I didn’t watch the video (am at work), but it could be she had insurance but her policy left enough wiggle room that they denied her claim.

That would get around:


I’ve seen insurance lapse under a mortgage because one firm sold the loan to another and the communication with the insurer gets lost. The amount is a line item in escrow and gets paid out back to the homeowner in the form of a bill reduction with the text that basically says “hey pay your insurance company with this”. However most folks don’t actually read their bill and see it as a pleasant reduction in their monthly payment.


That would be my first guess; as is often pointed out, the core work of insurance companies is not paying out claims, and we’ve all heard horror stories about the lengths they’ll go to.

Even if it was “her fault”, that might mean anything on a spectrum from “never had insurance” to “paid her premiums for 20 years but missed one payment at the wrong time”.


Thanks BB, now I’m crying. It does happen at lightening speed when you lose your living space. I have no good memories of living homeless, it took me years to just get to a level position mentally to talk openly about it with my Dear Wife. When my therapist circles back to it, supposedly for my good, I just shut down, it’s a wound/scar that never heals. I hope she finds her way and may kindness greet her daily.


Fucking heartless Libertarians destroy everything that they touch, and, unfortunately, in America, they touch pretty much everything. Housing and Healthcare is necessary for a society to function; but the Übermensch controlling the purse strings would rather let people die than pay decent taxes. :frowning:


If you and the bank own, the bank won’t let you go without homeowners insurance… And they check to be sure. If they find you don’t have it, they will get it for you and bill you. They’re a bit hard nosed that way.


Insurance, like other aspects of American late-stage capitalism, is a minefield of nickel-and-dime scams for the unwary.


Not even close. someone else has skin in this game, and a lot of it… The mortgage holder.

It may be that she didn’t own, in which case it very common to hold no insurance. Then you’re SOL


I’m not sure they’re universally diligent. I’ve had friends that paid insurance and taxes via escrow, but their mortgage company dropped the ball on paying. So they were on the hook for double while everything got figured out. Like others have said, stuff gets dropped when mortgages get sold around.

Like you were saying, the mortgage company will cover their own interests. It could be that insurance paid out but only covered the bank without much or any left over. In that case she’s lucky she’s only broke /s. At least that’s how car insurance was structured last time I checked.

I keep hearing rebuilding stories that suck after a large disaster: not enough construction companies, nowhere to live while waiting to rebuild, shortage of materials, with Covid materials costs are 4-8x increased.


I imagine if she were getting any unemployment assistance for the Taylor fire (the utility company was to blame) it’s likely run out, but I’m surprised more homeless aren’t being signed up for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, considering their exposure without housing.
California is paying out about $450 a week after tax when you include the federal bump up to September. Still, I imagine $1800/month doesn’t go very far in Los Angeles County.


Or for whatever reason they paid out little enough that it just covered the mortgage, leaving her with nothing to put deposit and first month rent on an apartment, especially after all the other expenses related to having your home (and your possessions) destroyed in a wildfire. Or she was renting, maybe without renters insurance, or the landlord wouldn’t return her despot in a timely fashion.

Every year there are studies that show that ~half of Americans don’t have $1000 is savings for an emergency. Even if you have good insurance it’s likely that having your home destroyed in a fire puts you out a few thousand dollars, and likely more in the short term. It’s not like they pay out the next day. If that also interrupts your ability, or causes you to rack up credit card debt that makes it hard to pass a credit check to rent an apartment, it’s not hard for an event like this to wipe someone out.


I don’t think many people realize how close they themselves may be to homelessness.