Blogging A-Z Challenge Theme: Homelessness
One of the main factors that can lead to homelessness is debt, and what can start off as missing one or two bills can quickly spiral into a situation where you can lose everything.
I’m not going to fob you off with a sob story, I got into debt, 2 factors contributed to this, firstly due to depressive illness I had to give up my job, a good very well paid job, and was off work for months as I began to slowly breakdown, and I didn’t even know it, considering I’d been through a breakdown only 5 years before this.
Anyway towards the end of 2011, mentally I wasn’t in a good place but still hanging on, because I couldn’t work and depression isn’t recognised as a disability, the help available at that time through my local health authority was minimal to say the least.
I was at this time living on benefits and barely coping £35 per week isn’t much to live on despite politicians seeming to think they were giving us a bounty every two weeks, it barely fed myself and my cats, even they were reduced to the cheapest cat food and with what was left over had to go towards bills.
I used what was left on my credit cards to pay larger bills as they came but eventually the credit ran out and then I had to start paying for that, which meant I often had to forgo decent meals, and during the winter months having the heating on for just a couple of hours per day just to keep up with basic living payments.
At the same time I was urgently looking for work, that would cover the mortgage and subsequent bills and debts that were build up rapidly, I just got caught in a spiral, and was beginning to ignore the letters that were piling up unopened.
Early January of 2012 I did finally get a job, not a great job, but it would give me some breathing space and perhaps starting paying some bills, even though through benefits the interest on the mortgage was being paid, but there was still council tax, water, gas-electric, food, credit card bills and other essentials that were needed and couldn’t avoid not buying.
So I signed off from job seekers allowance and housing benefit, and started work and within a month the company went bust and I had no choice but to go back and apply for benefits again which was ok, but back to square one then my unemployment benefit was suspended, I was being investigated from my previous claim for suspected fraudulent claims, they said I had other money that wasn’t declared, I had to provided a years worth of bank statements, which took time and had to be paid for and in the mean time I had to live of crises loans which have to be paid back, then added to that my housing benefit was also stopped for the same reasons.
It was a double blow that I didn’t need, the debts were really piling up as the crises loan literally covered necessities, also as with unemployment I had to give a years worth of statements to the housing benefits office, two separate agencies handling each claim differently, so I was back and forth over the course of the next 3 months giving more information as time went by, the mortgage company was starting to press me for payment for money I just didn’t have, I was so behind on bills and the mental cracks were more visible as I tried to deal with this problem.
As with mental health, homelessness,debt is also has a stigma attached to it, for me it was the death knell as they were talking about possible fraud, which I knew wasn’t true, but had to go through this grinding slow process to prove my case, the mortgage company by this time had applied for possession, so homelessness was becoming a stark reality, but I shoved it to the back of my mind actually believing it wouldn’t come to that.
Physically I was a wreck I’d lost over 30 pounds in weight, my hair was falling out, sleep,well that was a privilege for other people, I was scared to open the post scared to go out scared to tell friends what was happening, basically just scared.
I had been to court 3 times to prove my case I’d given them all the correct information, there was no fraud, even their own investigation had proved that, but still they kept me hanging on and not reinstating my benefits even though they knew what it could mean, the mortgage company had in my mind grown sinister they knew of my predicament(I had given them copies of all the paperwork) but they pressed hard for repossession all the same finally getting their wish as previously posted.
Some three weeks after the repossession, I got an e-mail that I was in the clear, the relief was massive, however I was homeless and the money owed to me would be kept by them as I no longer had a home or an address, I did write to the mortgage company enclosing the copy of the letter and asking if they would re-consider, the answer was no.Within a month my total breakdown was complete and what followed for the next 18 months will live with me forever, to be clear I had already had mental health issues, this whole situation just accelerated the condition to the point where I just wallowed in a dark pit of nothingness, no job, no money, no home, everything I owned save the suitcase I left with was either disposed of, or auctioned away I have nothing of my former life that says I even existed.