He's 26, Homeless, and We Don't Know How To Help


New Member
My stepson is 26. A few years ago, he lived with myself and his father (he was living with his mother, but he would get aggressive and it scared her). Shortly after moving in, he lost his job due to mood swings and not being hygienic. This prompted him to pack up and drive to California to live with his brother.
Once there, he refused to get a job. When he finally did, he was working 2 days a week and saw no problem with it. My husband just kept giving him money.
He was eventually kicked out by his brother for screaming and throwing fits. He lived in his car for a while, but it was repossessed. Since then, he has been kicked out of 2 group homes for behavior and hygiene issues,
He quit his job this week and hopped on a bus to Omaha for reasons unknown. His father asked him if he saw anything wrong with his actions, to which he replied, "I've got it all figured out". He is now asking for more money (it has been endless) and will not stay at a shelter. He would rather spend any money he has left on a hotel.
He clearly has a mental disorder imparing his judgement. In the past he has been told he was bipolar, but he didn't believe the doctor. How do we get him help? And do we keep sending money in the mean time?
Thank you for any advice.


Well-Known Member
First of all, hi and welcome!

Secondly, for your particvular situation, you would be best to post on the Parent Emeritus forum because it is for adult children 18 and over. This site is largely for minor children.

Very quickly, as have to run but didn't want to leave you hanging, you can't fix your stepson and I'd cut off the money. You can't make him change by giving him your retirement, paying his bills or enabling him in any way and you legally can't force him to get mental healthcare or substance abuse treatment (most adult kids who live like this are taking some form of drugs...often we don't know what it is or how much). They often spent the money we send them on drugs.There is plenty of help for the homeless...many food pantries and even meals and places to sleep if they follow the rules, but we can't force them to follow the rules and we can't really do much other than to step back, start to let their lives be their own choices even if they are foolish, and start to live good lives of our own, in spite of our difficult adult children.

He is 26. He is old enough to fight for our country, have a four year degree, work full time and make his own decisions in every way, including his lifestyle. Even those who are mentally ill have to take care of it. We can't make them go for help. Legally it's not possible. So the best advice I have, and I wish it were better, is that the money isn't going to do anything except encourage your stepson to keep on living lazy and nomadic, as many of our kids on this forum do. You can only change yourself, not anyone else, even a beloved adult child. He has to decide to change. If he d oesn't, my own advice is to not help him in his lifestyle. Let him figure it out, even if you don't trust him to. Sometimes they do, sometimes they do, but they do know where to go for food and lodging. Often they just don't like to follow the rules so they don't go, such as no drugs or no violent behavior. These are choices I feel we have to let our grown children make. We also have a right to be happy and have a savings account and money left over without forking anything over to them. They are able bodied. They just don't want to work. That's on them to decide how to deal with a life like the one they live. Many do eventually get it. Your son is getting in the "older" area, but he can still decide to change. Nothing YOU do, however, or say, another usual dead end, will inspire him.

If your son is taking drugs, I highly recommend Al-Anon. If you don't like Al-Anon, I again suggest therapy for both of you to learn to cope with having a happy life w hile you also have an adult child who is failing and to learn how to detach with love. And how to not feel guilty. This isn't your fault and you should not even listen to him say so (hang up). He is making his own decisions and what happened to him when he was ten or two or fifteen is not an excuse for him guilting you out so that he can get a free ride from you.

Wishing you a better tomorrow and the courage to say "no more." Hugs!!!

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
Welcome Camelot,
I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. You are not alone and have found this forum which is filled with stories just like yours.
There are many "warrior parents" here who have been where you are and have made it through. There are years and years worth of advice within these pages. Take what will work best for you and let the rest go.

My son is 33 and a homeless wonderer. My husband and I have tried so hard in the past to help him get his life on track but our efforts produced nothing of substance. In the end all we were doing was enabling his behavior and he was more than willing to take complete advantage of us.

Unfortunately there really is not much you can do for your step son. You can research to find help for him in the area is he in; shelters, food pantries, mental health www.nami.org and you can offer these suggestions to him but if he chooses not to get help there is really nothing more you can do.

While your husband may feel compelled to keep giving him money all that will accomplish is enabling your step son to stay stuck where is and in the process draining your savings. My husband and I have spent tens of thousands of dollars "helping/enabling" our son and in the end he chooses to be a homeless drifter.

You see Camelot it comes down to choice. Our Difficult Child make their choices and we have to make our choices.

I finally had gotten to a point where I had to say enough. I was living my life chasing after my adult son trying to get him to live the way I wanted him to live. I had to come to accept that was never going to happen.

None of us want to see our kids end up this way but the only way to move on is to accept that we have no control over how they choose to live their lives.

Again, I am so sorry you are dealing with this but please know, you are not alone. We are here to offer support.

You may want to consider getting some counseling for you and your husband.

Also, there is a good article on how to detach at the top of the Parent Emeritus page. Here is the link. I think you will find some valuable information for you and your husband.


Please let us know how things are going. We care.

((HUGS)) to you.......................


one day at a time
Camelot, welcome to the Parent Emeritus forum. I'm so sorry about your stepson's situation.

I have a 26-year-old son as well---as you can read in my signature. Today, he is much better, but we have been down to the bottom with him, so I understand.

And, I'm sure you are in an even more difficult situation since he is your stepson.

My stepson is 26.

The fact that he is 26 years old is both a good thing and a bad thing, I believe. He's an adult in the eyes of the world and the legal system, which means the consequences of his actions are more severe. He's an adult, so from a chronological age standpoint, it's past time for him to stand on his own two feet, whatever that looks like.

It is so frustrating and painful to watch someone with a diagnosed mental illness who will not comply with treatment. My son's girlfriend is again in jail for domestic assault (against my son). She is bipolar and is erratic with medication so situations never turn out well. I am hoping they are through this time, but who knows?

I don't know about you, but my heart goes out to her and to your son. But...beyond feeling empathy and sorrow, there is nothing more to do. If a person won't get the help that is available to them for their problem/illness/disorder/addiction, and in fact, they deny that the problem exists...there is nothing on earth that you and I can do to make them see more clearly and comply with treatment. I learned that the hard way, over years of trying.

His father asked him if he saw anything wrong with his actions, to which he replied, "I've got it all figured out". He is now asking for more money (it has been endless) and will not stay at a shelter.

Oh, yes they always have it figured out. They are going to do it THEIR WAY with OUR MONEY. That is where I believe the disconnect has to happen, and one of the first things to actually take action on, that ultimately may make a difference. Over time, as I learned, I stopped the flow of money. It took time for me to stop, because I love my son and I kept giving him chance after chance after chance. Finally, I realized nothing had changed, and in fact, I came to believe that my "help" was actually a big problem, for me and for him.

Once there, he refused to get a job. When he finally did, he was working 2 days a week and saw no problem with it. My husband just kept giving him money.

I understand this, your husband giving him money, even though his son wasn't pulling his own weight. We are terrified for them, and we think our money will help keep them alive. In the end, I came to believe that my money was actually going to end up being what would keep him in the same situation and unmotivated to change...because...why change if someone else is handling everything? You don't have to do a thing...somebody else will take care of it all.

How do we get him help? And do we keep sending money in the mean time?

Camelot, what is your husband, his father, willing to do? Is he willing to consider stopping the money? It is really hard to do without a lot of support. I recommend that you and your husband try some Al-Anon meetings in your community. They are free, and they are wonderful. You can sit and listen to other people who have been through exactly the same things, and have come out on the other side.

Second, you ask about getting him help. One thing that helped me was to have a list of resources that I could tell him about when he called and asked me for money, food, rides, etc. I learned to say no, over time, but I would share some of the list with him. I did it as much for myself as I did it for him, because it was hard for me to offer nothing.

Here is something I learned: People who are mentally ill are still responsible for their actions (unless they are psychotic and don't know fantasy from reality). That is a truth that a mental health professional taught me, and I was flabbergasted. I thought I should make allowances for someone who was clinically depressed, an alcoholic, a drug addict, whatever (all mental illnesses). I thought they couldn't help what they did. She set me straight on that. That was a good day for me, because I started thinking differently.

None of this is easy. My heart goes out to you and your husband. Don't expect overnight change from either one of yourselves. Go slowly and try to learn about detachment with love. There is a post on this forum about detachment at the top of the PE thread. Al-Anon teaches as well about detachment.

We are here for you and your husband. Please keep sharing. Warm hugs today.


Well-Known Member
How do we get him help? And do we keep sending money in the mean time?
Hi Camelot. Welcome to the forum.

My son is 26, too. He has been homeless and he is mentally ill. (He refuses treatment and medication and typically denies that he is impaired. Despite repeated hospitalizations.)

Right now he is living with a friend and working in that friend's landscape concrete business, and I am grateful for that.

My first recommendation for you is to invite your husband to participate here on the forum. Any change will have to come from him, as the parent.

As others have said, your stepson is responsible for getting his own help.

Most of us have cut off the money.

My son was able to get SSI. He did it himself. Where there is a will, there is a way.

When I cut off all help, and said my son could not live with us, he was forced to accept the consequences of his decisions. That was the beginning of real change.

For a while he lived in shelters, on the street, and couchsurfing. He was taken advantage by people who preyed on him for his SSI check. Eventually, he saw that the life he chose was not what he wanted and he took steps to try to change it.

I now have the confidence of my convictions. No money. No guidance. No intervention by me. Everything he will need to solve or not his in his hands. His choice. End of story.

I will never any more feel that he benefits or I benefit from helping him do that which he is fully equipped to do by himself, for himself.

There is a wide range of outcomes for mentally ill people which depend upon their own choices and efforts. I will no longer enable my son.

I will not do that to him or to myself.

Welcome to the forum and keep posting.
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Well-Known Member
Hi Cam,

Welcome to the forum.

You have two choices--keep doing what you are doing (and nothing changes) or stop supporting his lifestyle.

He has made his choice and it is working for him--at least for now. You have the right to choose to continue to pay for those choices or not.

I vote not.

He won't change as long as you continue to support him.

It is the hardest thing to change and get out of your comfort zone.

Keep posting. It helps.