Whether it's due to hurricane, fire, flood, or economic disaster, it's worth planning for the problem of how to deal with house guests. When TSHTF, not everyone is going to be prepared or able to bug-in, and some will be caught flat-footed with no plan. If they are strangers knocking on your door, you should have a defensive plan in place. If they are family or tribe, they may end up staying with you for a while, and that can create a set of problems that needs to be prepared for.
Family is a mixed bag. Some families get along well and help each other out on a regular basis; other family dynamics more closely resemble the Cold War theory of MutuallyAssured Destruction. You need to look at your family members now, before TSHTF, and decide how much aid you're willing to give each of them them. Personally, I've seen:
- Families move in with parents after losing their house in a fire.
- Family members move in with a sick sibling to take care of the house/kids until the illness was eliminated.
- A father adopt his grandson when his daughter proved to be unable to care for him (medical bills and treatment).
- Another father adopt both of his grand-kids after his daughter was found to be unfit to raise children.
- Adult children moving in with their parents after losing jobs. This is becoming quite common.
- Adult children moving in with their parents after a divorce. This is also becoming quite common, since divorces usually mean the loss of the house to one or both parties.
- Parents moving in with an adult child due to medical issues.
- Families bouncing from relative to relative, looking for a place to stay after losing their house in a flood. This can be a sign of inflexibility or incompatibility on the part of the migrant family members.
- Adult siblings living together for a week or two following a nasty blizzard. Blocked roads and downed power lines can make it difficult to get to and from work.
Family dynamics can be a can of worms. There are college-level courses covering the subject, but here are some highlights that I have witnessed.
- Most parents have a difficult time accepting their children as adults, no matter how old the children are. Grandchildren help alleviate this to a small degree.
- In-laws can be easier to deal with than blood relatives. Less history in the relationship means fewer opportunities for problems.
- Siblings tend to treat each other the same way they did in high school (some folks never progress beyond their teenage years).
- Some family members are emotionally toxic and not worth sharing a home with. Pay to put them up in a cheap hotel before you let them destroy your life. A tent in the back yard is also an option.
- “My house, my rules” becomes a cudgel to some families.
- Unresolved issues will come up. They only have to be unresolved on one side to become a problem.
Tribe is a bit better than family, because we get to choose who is a member of our tribe, and this ensures a minimum of shared interests and goals. For many folks, it is easier to get along with a roommate than it is a sibling; this makes it much easier to accept a tribe member as a house guest. I have tribe members that have offered me a place to live (not just stay) if I ever need it, and I have made to same offer to several of them. Some I've known for a few years, others a few decades, and one I've known most of my life. These are the people I trust with my life, and living with them would be pleasant.
If there is a chance you may have family or tribe living with you after a disaster, be it natural or man-made, there are a few things to consider when making plans.
- Have a clear set of rules that apply to everyone. Nothing fosters animosity quicker than preferential treatment. If lights-out (or quiet time) is 10:00 PM, then it has to apply to everyone. Little Debbie doesn't get to stay up watching TV until midnight, just because she wants to.
- Depending on circumstances, share and expect everyone else to share food, funds, chores, and materials. After a fire or flood they may not have much more than the clothes on their backs, but they can still help out around the house.
- Set an end date or conditions as soon as you can discuss it. Unless you're dealing with TEOTWAWKI, house guests will eventually leave. Make sure that is agreed upon as soon as possible.
- Compatibility of pets might be an issue. If your sister brings four St. Bernard dogs to live with you and your three Pekingese, someone is likely to get sat upon. Exotic pets (snakes, fancy rats, etc.) may be seen as food to your pets, so plan accordingly.
- Sleeping arrangements. Spare beds, couches, and inflatable mattresses are all good options for guests. Try to provide as much privacy as possible for your guests; it will be appreciated.
- Make sure your expectations are clear. If you expect your guests to do their own laundry, they need to know that.
- Good guests will try to avoid being a burden but some may have trouble making the shift from “head of the household” to “guest”. Major decisions are up to you to make, not your guests. Remember, they will leave eventually.
- Don't be a doormat just because they're family, you need to keep your household running and they may not always see or do things your way. This is another good reason for privacy and separate sleeping (and living) quarters when possible. Keep reminding yourself, they will leave eventually.
With the flooding in Baton Rouge, the riots that seem to pop up every week or two, and the various personal disasters that can strike out of the blue, we all should be willing to help out those we love and trust. Planning now will make things go a lot smoother later, which is one of the tenets of prepping.