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'I am not ashamed of losing my home. But people's judgemental attitudes make it harder'

Believe me, no one deliberately sets out to rip apart the foundations of their home by simply not making mortgage repayments.

Anonymous

EVERY MORNING, I wake up in my beautiful home of 18 years with my two babies, two Shih Tzu dogs called Olliepop and Bettyboop. I look out of my bedroom window at the oak tree dominating the carefully nurtured garden.

I drag myself out of bed, full of despair and anger, to buoyant dogs wanting to run around the back garden.

I move through my home, passing the wide sweep of the dining room, where I celebrated so many family events, Christmas lunches, and displayed my passion for art. Suddenly I am overwhelmed with anguish. Tears flood my cheeks. My adorable dogs clamber onto my legs offering me solace, sensing my state of mind.

Why am I in this trauma? 

In a cruel twist of fate, I am fighting for my home, my sanctuary. I am in the middle of a repossession battle, a place I never thought I would be. I console myself that I’m one of the lucky ones, because at least I don’t have a young family to worry about. However, the trauma of losing my home in my early fifties is not diminished by that fact.

My idyllic life unravelled with my marriage. The details are not important but the impact is the same no matter how one loses a home. It’s a major trauma in anyone’s life.

Ironically enough I once slept as a homeless person as part of a Focus Ireland initiative to raise awareness of homelessness in Ireland. As I lay under the stars, in a blue sleeping bag, I cried at the thought of anyone having to experience the loneliness of homelessness. It was an unsettling experience.

The psychological impact of losing a home

However, with the ever-growing number of repossessions, there is very little understanding or research into the psychological impact of losing one’s home. Instead of having sympathy for such homeowners, many people blame them for their own problems.

The pain and despair I suffer every day is inexplicable. But the loss of my home is met by stern reproaches. People say to me: Repossession is not the end of the world. You will be a stronger person from this. You will move on to a better place.  We never thought your marriage was good. The banks will do what they have to do. You are just another number in the bank’s records. That’s life. Everyone has problems.

Mortgage contracts are usually set over a period of twenty-five to thirty years and based on the idea that everyone’s circumstances will remain static over their lifetime. There is no accounting for life’s unknowns, like divorce, death, job loss or mental health issues. There is no genuine support system in place to help struggling mortgage holders reduce their debt, for example by downsizing.

People’s circumstances change

The Central Bank concerns itself rightly so with borrowing costs and repayment potential. But we live in a world where a job for life doesn’t exist any more. More and more marriages fall apart. And people suffer from mental ill-health at various points in their lives.

This inflexibility around the ability to pay back a mortgage is devastating for so many people, especially as there are real alternatives and options rarely exercised by the banks other than repossession. Believe me, no one deliberately sets out to rip apart the foundations of their home by simply not making mortgage repayments. It is more commonly a change in life’s circumstances that causes people to lose their home.

There should be a legal obligation at most and a moral obligation at least on banks. They should look at the extenuating circumstance of mortgage problems, offering solutions rather than just repossessing houses.

We need to fundamentally review our attitude to home repossessions and question our judgmental attitudes. I am not ashamed of losing my home; I am desolate at losing my home. My home was the crowning jewel of all my hard work and savings. When I look at it now, it no longer feels like mine.

I stand still, remembering my daughter growing up here, her many birthdays, racing about with their friends. My pain is endless but the ignorant judgment of others is soul destroying.

By telling my story, I hope that maybe in some small way my story might start to change the narrative about how we view people who find themselves without a home.

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous.

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