‘Homelessness does not just happen to vulnerable people’
If someone had told me last Christmas that my two-year-old son and I would be a Statutory Homeless and our home would be repossessed by Christmas 2012, I would’ve laughed in total disbelief and wished them a merry Christmas.
Homelessness was not something I had previously given much thought to. Like most people, I bought The Big Issue when I could and like most, very often I sadly walked on by. But homelessness does not just happen to vulnerable people in society. As I have found out for myself, if you’re unfortunate enough to have your circumstances collude against you, homelessness can happen to absolutely anyone.
Most disturbingly, this Christmas will see 75,000 children in the UK without a permanent home. Just imagine for a moment what that must be truly like for those children and their parents. I know what it’s like to face that with a young child. It’s beyond words. It’s beyond fear.
My home was more than just a house. I put everything I had into it and, as both my parents have passed away, this was the centre of my world. As the owner of successful international events company and tired of expensive London rents, my ex-partner and I bought our cottage in 2007. Foolishly on my part, the mortgage was only in my name. Although we signed a Trust Deed to formalise the share of ownership, it sadly did not share the liability.
Within the last 4 years, I’d survived my brother’s sudden death, become pregnant (complicated by hyperemesis gravidarum), watched my 10 year old company being sucked into the recession and finally filing for bankruptcy; going from being an independent full time business woman to a dependent full time mother at 38. Along with these seismic changes and having the financial supporting roles reversed, our increasingly untenable 11 year relationship didn’t survive and in February 2012, I became the mainstream media’s folk devil du jour: Single Mum on Benefits.
I did not get here by choice and nor do I intend to stay for long but with no family to help with childcare and living in rural Suffolk, my current options have been extremely limited. I have not however resigned myself to watching daytime TV. In the last 2 years I have completed a City & Guilds in Floristry and am currently studying at the Open University.
In these last 10 months, I’ve been profoundly humbled by the love and unwavering support I’ve received by a handful of friends and a few relative strangers without which, and along with the incredible support from Shelter, I dread to think what our journey would have become. Equally I’ve been amazed by those whom I thought would stand by me and my son through a difficult patch in our lives, but in fact have all but walked away. Losing your home is a strange concept as most people who have no idea how devastating it is. It’s like a death in a way; some people find it too overwhelming to deal with and do nothing as a result.
May was the month I was able to receive Support For Mortgage Interest, after the 13 week wait by which time the arrears on the mortgage were stacking up. The mortgage company seemed helpful at first as they promised no ‘extra’ charges on my account for a few months but soon after, they increased my mortgage interest by half a percent. SMI was originally set at 6% but this government reduced the cap to 3.75%. My mortgage is 5.75% and my son and I are losing our home for less than £5,000 worth of arrears after paying over £80,000 into our home over the last five years, until February.
Whilst we read about the many affected by the Housing Benefit caps, how many families who have lost their jobs or partners and are now losing their homes too as a result of the SMI cap? My mortgage company continues to surprise and outrage me in equal measures. Today they told me that after I’ve been evicted on 4 December, they will still be charging me monthly interest until my house is sold. I am speechless.
As my Eviction date loomed large, I was offered a house by the council. I suspect this is largely due to me being in rural Suffolk. I realise that other Statutory Homeless families in towns and cities across the UK are not so lucky and my heart truly goes out to them. Until you have been in this situation or have spent some time with people who have, most people have no idea how utterly horrific and paralysing it is to lose something that is often taken for granted; the security and safety of your home.Tagged in: big issue, HOMELESS, homelessness, Shelter, SMI, Support For Mortgage Interest
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