Don’t just enable homeless relative

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, “Tom,” lives with us because he is not able to hold a job. Fifteen years ago, he moved to the Midwest with his wife and children.

Dear Annie: My brother-in-law, “Tom,” lives with us because he is not able to hold a job. Fifteen years ago, he moved to the Midwest with his wife and children.

He was there for a year, and then his wife divorced him.

We paid for his ticket home, and he lived with us for three months.

He then moved to California to live with a cousin, but they threw him out when he couldn’t hold onto a job and pay rent. He became homeless.

Tom moved back into his mother’s house and found work, but only for a brief time before he was fired. Any money he had saved, he spent in bars and on women.

When Mom went into a nursing home, Tom couldn’t pay the upkeep on the house, so he rented it out and ended up homeless again. So we took him in.

We helped Tom get food stamps and a part-time job.

He sees a counsellor once a month. Our only rule is that he has to be in by 9 p.m., because I work early, and when he comes home late, it wakes me up. But Tom has a hard time following this.

Tom continues to make poor choices, and I am afraid he will end up living with us permanently.

Why is he this way? And what can I do to help? — Miserable Sister-in-Law

Dear Miserable: Counselling should help determine why Tom makes poor choices.

But he also could use a physical checkup. It’s possible Tom suffers from attention deficit disorder and cannot focus on the work at hand.

Or he may have an alcohol problem.

However, your kindness is also a form of enabling. By giving Tom a cushion to fall back on, he hasn’t had to take complete responsibility for his own actions. A 9 p.m. curfew is rather early for an adult, but it is a small price to pay for free housing.

Talk to your husband so you are both in agreement about how to handle Tom.

You could take away his house key and tell him the doors will be bolted after 9.

You could throw him out. You could ask him to pay a small amount of rent from his part-time job. But we also recommend that you and your husband request a joint session with Tom and his counsellor to talk about the best way to deal with this.

Dear Annie: I live in a nice-sized city. We have lots of beautiful parks with walking paths and a small zoo. We have green grass and flowers in the summer and beautiful lights shining against the snow in winter.

But nearly every home on my block has garbage cans “decorating” the front yard. One neighbour starting putting his trash out there, and now everyone does it. Why would residents think this is beautiful? We all have garages to house our garbage bins. How can I remedy this ugliness? — Love My City in N.D.

Dear N.D.: Does your city have regulations about leaving garbage cans at the curb on days when garbage is not picked up? Is there a homeowners or neighbourhood association that could help mediate? Otherwise, simply knock on your neighbours’ doors and say that you find these garbage cans to be an eyesore that detracts from your lovely street.

Ask whether they would consider keeping them in the garage. Be friendly. Bring cupcakes. It can’t hurt.

Dear Annie: Here’s my response to people who keep interrupting me when I’m talking.

As soon as they butt in, I say, “I’m sorry I interrupted the beginning of your sentence with the middle of mine.” Most of the time, it stops them in their tracks trying to figure out what I mean. — Kentucky

Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rocky Mountain House RCMP are investigating a fatal collision involving a pedestrian on Feb. 27. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate fatal pedestrian collision

Collision occured west of Rocky on Highway 11A

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

March will be dramatically warmer through the prairies

Bharat Masrani, CEO, TD Bank Group speaks at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, November 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

Shares in metals and mining companies have rebounded sharply

A worker carrying a disinfectant sprayer walks past a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after cleaning another plane at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

Layoff notices to go out ahead of the expiration of a memorandum of agreement

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

Canada has ordered 24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

Red Deer dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

A ” Justice for Jeff” T-shirt. (Photo submitted)
Rally to be held outside Red Deer courthouse for slain Ponoka man

Sentencing for accused charged with manslaughter with a firearm set for March 4

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson makes a shot against Team Alberta as second Shannon Birchard, right, and lead Briane Meilleur sweep in the semi-final at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Kerri Einarson wins second straight Canadian women’s curling championship

Einarson and her teammates celebrated Sunday in the silence in an empty arena

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes on Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
With loved ones and pets, Globes winners embrace cozier show

Nicole Kidman and musician-husband Keith Urban got glammed up to sit on their couch

The cast of “Schitt’s Creek” pose for a photo after winning the Award for Best Comedy Series at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on March 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Schitt’s Creek nabs two Golden Globes for its final season

Catherine O’Hara named best television actress in a musical or comedy

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

Most Read