One original fiction project of mine is set in 1999 and into the earliest bits of the new millennium. There's a minor character who is a bit crazy (paranoia, delusions, utterly convinced his neighbors are brain-hunting alien spores or the world is going to end next Tuesday, that sort of thing--except that sometimes he's right), and I'm having some difficulty working out the logistics of how this guy lives from day to day. I've already got another character doing the eccentric homeless person thing, so that's not an option.
But this guy is also probably not going to be able to hold down a job, since he's likely to wake up one day with the firm belief that his co-workers are all cloned spies from the government or that his employer is in fact working for a nest of vampiric hellspawn. He might make a good tabloid newspaper writer, but even that'd be iffy. So I'm left with trying to work out just how much money a person in his situation would have gotten from welfare at the time. (He's doesn't act on his crazy often enough or in violent enough ways to run the risk of getting locked up outright, I wouldn't think; he mostly just lurks, glares suspiciously, and occasionally starts ranting on a street corner.) I don't want or need him to be living well, mind you. A tiny run-down apartment on the rougher side of town, with few possessions besides a typewriter, a couch, and maybe a crappy fridge, will suit my purposes nicely.