“I exited bankruptcy in July 2016 and was questioned on RTE news about what would now change. ‘Nothing’ I said and it was true at the time. If anything I was in a harder place than when the banks repossessed my home and my business collapsed six years ago. I was heart-broken and good for nothing. I wrote an article about homelessness in the Irish Times and the next day a friend offered me a cottage to rent. One year later it feels like home. My tiny cottage sits snugly in the hills overlooking the pretty village of Shillelagh. I have work in PR and as a freelance journalist. I pay my bills. I even go out to dinner on occasion. I have never been happier. My children live nearby and they are amazing young women. I get up each morning with gratitude in my heart. I have put the survival mode behind me and I am shining now. Every human being deserves to shine and this time is mine.”
Facing homelessness for the second time, Jillian Godsil explores how this social issue has become a middle-class problem
I’m trying to think of a word to sum up how I feel. I think there must be one out there but I can’t put my finger on it. I know what it feels like, a funny ache that lives mostly in the pit of my belly but sometimes it crawls up to lodge in the back of my throat.
I am homeless, for the second time in my adult life, and – though each person’s situation is unique and many are worse than mine – I am part of the great sickening statistic that haunts this land.
The first time I became homeless, the banks repossessed my fine home and sold it for a pittance. There were so many wrongs I hardly know where to start.
But I was stoic then. Gracious almost. Leavetaking suited me, liberated me or so I told myself. I embraced the continental way of living. Let us rent instead. I threw the words out carelessly as if they cost me nothing. I was a new woman to whom possessions were as naught. It is easy to be flippant about possessions when none are left.
I swaggered around as if being divested of things was easy. But this was a façade, and I was dreadfully hurt by the absence of things – notably my security. And more notably still, my children’s security.
Here you may want to stop me, to rail against me and deliver a lecture. Like a pregnant woman who gathers advice thick and fast from well-meaning, if censorious, others, a woman re-entering the state of homelessness tends to get lectured.
The first time I lost my home it happened in a flurry of newspaper clippings. I was among the first to have a home repossessed by the banks. Not the first but a public first (I was in the already in the public eye after I had tried to sell the house on YouTube). As the eviction unfolded, I felt the weight of injustice push down on me from all sides, and I welcomed the media spotlight upon my situation.
Now I am facing into the maelstrom of homelessness again. I am not alone. There are hundreds of families being evicted every month and moving into emergency accommodation. Tens of thousands more sit on the social housing list. For every vocal Erica Fleming, who told her story of homelessness and single motherhood through RTÉ and other media, there are hundreds of silent witnesses.
This time I am lacking any of the securities I felt before. There’s no sense of karma. I smile in all the right places, laugh as loud as the next person and perform daily tasks with astonishing ease. There, look, I am dressed and functioning. Offering words and busily attending to matters.
Last August we were told we must leave. Plenty of time to find a little cottage and a few acres you’d think. But then perhaps you have not been listening to the news or reading the papers.
The freight train of our own personal eviction notice has paid no attention to months, weeks and days in its relentless pursuit of its deadline. It has slammed through all time, steel wheels slicing through our emotive pleas for clemency.
God’s grace descended on us at the final hour but it separated us too. I managed to find my children, now young adults, lodgings in a pretty cottage with just three rooms. There they have sequestered themselves with their belongings and dog and cat. They are creating a new home and I am proud of their independence while all the time there is a tearing in my belly at our forced, untimely separation.
I am residing in a friend’s house. I call it “couch surfing” to sound modern. I am surrounded on all sides by boxes and rails and the sad paraphernalia of a rented life; nothing more sturdy than a chair or lamp. This is temporary: even friendship has an expiry date when accompanied by suitcases.
I wake up this morning, my first morning in my current lodging and look around at my life. To cheer myself up, I am calling it an adventure. This morning I have a new, if temporary, view outside my bedroom window. I am surrounded by fields in turn populated by horses, cows and sheep. It is very peaceful and pastoral.
I’m sure homeless people all over Ireland are trying to convince themselves or their chlidren that their situation is not as awful as it feels. But I do it anyway.
For immediate release: Friday 24 October, 2011
The inaugural Women’s Inspire Network (WIN) formed by Twitter-Goddess Samantha Kelly kicks off its 2014 programme with a conference to inspire women in Wexford. The lineup includes Victoria Mary Clarke, Carmel Harrington and Jillian Godsil. The venue is The Talbot Hotel, Wexford, on Wednesday 29th October from 9am until 1pm, when lunch and networking will take place. The theme is Surviving in a Recession.
Samantha Kelly, better known as @TweetingGoddess, is well known for her successful appearance on Dragon’s Den, the online group IrishBizParty and Goddess Hour on RadioActive. She formed IrishBizParty as a networking group and that has now grown to more than 2000 active members. She formed the WIN group this year in response to her experience at formal networking groups. As she explains: ‘I found most traditional networking groups to be intimidating. They tend to be suit-dominated and very male in their orientation. Often, the timing too was geared towards people who either do not have children or who have a spouse at home to mind them. I felt we needed a fresh channel where women in particular could come together to share experiences, link up and network in a non-threatening fashion – especially where women have multiple roles of mother, worker, wife, carer as well as business person. This forum is intended to inspire women and we have some amazing women gathered to share their stories and insights.’ Samantha recently was nominated for The Bank of Ireland Startupawards – in the Hero Startup category for her work in helping fellow startup businesses and SMEs.
Leading the charge is Victoria Mary Clarke who is a bestselling author, (‘A Drink With Shane Mac Gowan’ and ‘Angel In Disguise’) internationally successful journalist, television presenter, radio broadcaster, motivational speaker, yoga teacher and angel channeller. She has spent more than 20 years studying meditation, yoga and different holistic therapies, with a particular interest in energy healing techniques and nutrition.
Victoria Mary says: ‘I am fascinated by exploring the different ways in which we can help ourselves to feel amazing….to feel full of enthusiasm and energy, magnetic, creative and charismatic, and in this talk I will be sharing my top ten tricks for optimising your energy for success!’
Carmel Harrington is an award winning and bestselling author who sprang to fame last year when her self-published debut novel, Beyond Grace’s Rainbow secured her a three-book deal with publishing giants Harper Collins. She then went on to win both Kindle Book of the Year and Romantic eBook of the year in 2013. Her second bestselling novel, The Life You Left was published in July 2014. Carmel lives in Wexford, where she juggles being a wife and mother with writing her third book – The Road Back Home. She is generous in sharing her time supporting aspiring writers through her online writing group Imagine, Write, Inspire and is also one of the founding members of Focal – Wexford’s Literary Festival.
She says, ‘There is no doubt that writing in the current market is both tough and daunting as you try to compete with established authors. But it’s not impossible. By working hard and at all times maintaining a positive attitude, I believe that anything is possible. Three years ago I decided to follow a lifelong ambition to be a writer. I’ve never worked as hard or been as scared. But you know what? I’ve never been as happy either.’
The final speaker on the day is Jillian Godsil, whose claim to fame is to be the brokest woman in Ireland – which is some feat given the state of the nation. Her business failed, her home was repossessed and she was forced into bankruptcy, and is indeed the first female bankrupt under the new insolvency laws. However, she did not take these crushing failures lying down. As a bankrupt she was not allowed run for public office, so she took the Irish government to the High Court for the infringement of her constitutional rights. She won and subsequently ran for Europe, winning 11,500 votes in four weeks, on a null budget and with no party. She is now reinventing herself as writer, speaker and student. She says: ‘Surviving is not enough. We have to live even as we survive. And then we aspire to thrive.’
For tickets for the event, please visit http://www.eventbrite.ie/e/the-womens-inspire-network-be-inspired-tickets-12429728653