"My mother is a freeloader," Tara says.
Tara's brother, Nick, agrees. "My mother takes handouts from anybody who would give it," he says.
"I am mooching," Rita admits with a laugh. She shows off her van. "I sleep in here. My door knob is broken on this, so I've got to climb in from the other side. In the winter months, I will usually stay with a family member: son, daughter, mom, sister, brother. Kind of like a ping-pong ball," she says.
"The whole family pretty much passes her around," Tara says. "We're very tired of her. Just about every day my mom asks for money."
"My daughter will give me $20, and my mom might give me $5, my son $10," Rita explains.
"She'll take as much as you give," Nick says.
"My mother owes money to me, my brother, my grandma. My mother even owes my 6-year-old son money," Tara says. Rita placed an IOU in her grandson's piggy bank. "We have new piggy banks that she can't really get into. She'd have to cut it, and she doesn't want to get caught because I'd wring her frickin' butt if she cut it open."
"My mother always seems to have money. She's the richest poor person I know," Nick says.
"I want my mom to get a job and stop mooching," Tara says.
"As long as I can remember, my mom has always struggled to hold a job," Nick says.
"I should be really embarrassed, the way I live, but I don't think it bothers me as much as it does my kids," Rita says.
"It's kind of hard to want to take care of your parents when they're still clearly able to take care of themselves; they just don't want to," Nick says.
Nick and Tara turn to Dr. Phil. Tara asks, "How can I get my mom to stop mooching and get more independent?"
"Yeah, it bothers me," Rita says.
"This is kind of working for you, isn't it?" he asks, pointing out that Rita stays with Nick and Tara each a couple days a week, and then sleeps in her van when the weather permits.
"I do that because I get tired of hearing people complain," Rita says. "I feel like I'm in the way."
Nick thinks his mother is incapable of changing, even after speaking to Dr. Phil. "She's not embarrassed of anything," he says.
"I definitely think that she needs a lot of help," Tara says. "She's causing a lot of problems with our families, and it puts a lot of stress on me."
"Why are you doing it?" Dr. Phil asks Tara. "You've heard the old saying, â€˜Necessity is the mother of invention'? So, if she has nowhere else to go, do you think she'd have to get a job in order to pay some rent somewhere?"
"I do, but on the other hand, it makes me feel bad," Tara says.
"Here's the thing: This is a total guilt play for you," Dr. Phil tells her. "You're not doing this because it helps her or doesn't help her; you're doing it because you feel guilty sitting in your house knowing your mother is somewhere sleeping in a van."
"Exactly," Tara says.
"I know it can make people feel guilty," she says.
"And you're good at that, true?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Why don't you work?" he asks.
"I do. I just have a lot of problems. I have some health problems, and I'm having problems now where I'm just having a mental block," Rita says. She explains that she was working for minimum wage and lost her apartment because she couldn't afford it.
"Well, I'm not good at math, but it seems like some money is better than no money," Dr. Phil says. "It seems like maybe you would keep that job until you found a better job, and then after you were off of work, you would spend time looking for another job." He tells her that her county's Department of Job and Family Services will help Rita get a job that she's qualified for and that will sustain
"I'm a willing spirit," Rita says.
Dr. Phil turns back to Tara. "You can't do this out of guilt. You're doing this for you, not her, because it's not helping her, it's hurting her, and it's just salving your guilt."