Virginia’s husband walked out on her in January 2013. They lived in a shared ownership property but the mortgage was just in her name, so she was left responsible for it.
A month after my husband left, I lost my job as an office manager in accounts department of a horticultural company. It came out of the blue after 12 years.
At first it didn’t really sink in. I thought it would be ok. I tried to look for another job, but nothing was about. I‘d apply for jobs, but so did about two or three hundred other people.
For the first few months my husband did send some money through to support me, but after a year he suddenly stopped. Then I realised that I couldn’t keep the house. It had been a struggle anyway, but without an income, I couldn’t afford to stay in my home.
I was so determined not to get depressed with it. I knew that I wouldn’t find a solution if I got depressed. At the end of the day though, there just wasn’t enough money coming in.
I pleaded with the mortgage company to repossess the house so I could get out and stop the debts from mounting but they wouldn’t. They refused and kept putting the pressure on me to pay them.
I eventually went to the council in October 2014. I had a lovely housing officer who helped me through. I had to go and talk through my situation with him. He told me that I wasn’t making intentionally homeless so I was accepted onto the housing register but that the wait could be long. He said I needed to go out and look for private renting too which I did, but there was no way I could have afforded that.
It felt so degrading having to go and ask for help at the council. I’d been brought up to hide whatever trouble I was going through.
I heard in June that I had been given a housing association property. A few days earlier I had to have my beloved 15-year-old dog put to sleep. So when they rang me and said I had this house I just burst into tears. They must have thought I was mad.
I returned my old house keys to the mortgage lender which is called voluntary repossession. The house still hasn’t been sold. I’m just hoping that once it is the debts from it will be paid.
I moved into my new home in July. It’s lovely, and more to the point, it’s a roof over my head. It still doesn’t feel like home, losing my own house was difficult. But it‘s just one of those things, I’m just going to have to accept it unfortunately.
It’ll take me a few months to work out what my bills are here and so on and for it to level out before I can relax. I’ve moved my furniture in although as this place is a lot smaller. I had to get rid of most of my possessions. A lot of my home has ended up in a skip, which was upsetting.
I would advise anyone facing losing their home – please do not give up, even though you know you won’t remain where you are, you’re going down a different path. Keep your family close and lean on them. Walk away from what’s gone and look forward. It’s so difficult to do that at the time, but don’t look back. That’s what I’m doing.
Call Shelter’s free helpline on 0808 800 4444 if you are at risk of losing your home. An adviser can look into your situation in more detail and help you plan your next steps.
*A model was used in photography to protect the identity of our case study.