Michelle was new in the area. She was new to the area and found that there were many parent cliques at school. Michelle had been trying her best to keep her cool as she dropped her children off.
However, one mom was kind, persistant, talked every day and requested Michelle meet her for a cup of coffee.
Michelle had experienced a lot in her life. She had also moved, and had had to cut back on work hours. Money was scarce.
It was overwhelming to think of purchasing something for her son’s special day. She didn’t have enough money as usual to pay extra.
Michelle met a friend and she offered her help. She said she was familiar with what it is like to be in need of a bit more money, and she would pay Michelle back next month. Friends are for that.
And so it started with £50.
“I cried each night”
Another offer was made to her, and she agreed to return the money the following month.
She tells BBC that although she stated that it would be paid with interest this time, the loan was worth twice as much. My pocket was empty of twice as much the next month. It was an endless cycle. It was a cycle. I borrowed more because I was borrowing more.
This was an easy trap to fall into.
I was truly embarrassed. “I was really embarrassed. Every night, I wept.”
That £50 turned into thousands of pounds being paid, in cash, over several months, with no records kept. Michelle was unable to resist the temptation of putting her foot down. It soon became obvious who was responsible.
The threats were sent to her, they set fires outside of the front door and broke the windows nightly.
Michelle tried her best to conceal it, but Michelle’s children were aware of the truth.
Her explanation was that the virus started in the summer and you might be out late.” “But it arrived in the winter so I could be out quite late,” she says.
The abuse online was increasing with many lies posted about her that anyone could see. That was the most horrible feeling she had, and it made her sick.
“I felt embarrassed, humiliated and scared that someone would notice it at work. “I was worried that someone would see it and make a comment. What was the impact of this on me, in the long-term?
Michelle was depressed, petrified and in a very vulnerable situation with her family.
Her house was then broken into and ransacked around the same time last year.
There were items that had been urinated upon, including carpets and children’s mattresses. I had to throw a lot of stuff away that was left… There was stuff taken that I’ll never get back. These are sentimental items.”
Michelle crackles in her voice as she tells this to me. That was when she realized they had to go. The children and the few remaining possessions were taken by her. She then walked them out the door, never to be seen again.
Michelle and her family lost their home last Christmas. Although they were provided temporary housing, the family was left without any resources. They had no table, presents or tree.
As she begins to weep, she says: “It was Christmas. I had made my children homeless. How can a mother make her children homeless?! It was me. That was my choice. That was my choice. I took their knowledge away and gave them nothing.
Michelle then made an important decision which helped her get back on track. The anonymous Stop Loan Sharks hotline was called by Michelle. Michelle’s life has changed dramatically since then.
“They were so kind. It was not a judgement. You don’t have to be a judge. “I felt that I was able to breathe again. I felt as if someone understood what these people did.”
As they fear that loan sharks could lead to serious debt, charities are warning consumers not to borrow money from them this Christmas.
Michelle and Michelle’s families have moved to safety, Michelle now has a permanent place to call home, while Michelle has taken the time to think about what went wrong.
Michelle assures me that she is not stupid. Michelle tells me that I made a mistake when I was desperate. But, I am a good parent.
Michelle’s story is her first public telling. Michelle wants everybody to hear it. Although she didn’t believe it would happen, Michelle had a job that was good, never lost her job, and thought people were being generous.
Not all loan sharks look like big, burley-haired men with beards. They can also be a neighbor, friend, or family member.
Her words to me are: “Last year, we had nothing to be proud of.
However, this year it’s different. “This year, we have a home. Our family has a wonderful home and lives happily. They are all happy, too.
Help is available from where
If you are worried about any of the issues raised in this article Stop Loan Sharks has a 24/7 hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visit their website: www.stoploansharks.co.uk
BBC Action Line can provide linksCharity organizations that help with homelessness and debt.
Share Your Comment Below