Rah’s story

    After suffering a divorce and ending up in a psych ward, Rah and their cat Harvey found themselves left with nowhere to go. Most homeless services don’t accept pets. But luckily, the council put Rah in touch with St Mungo’s, where both were given a home in one of our hostels. This is Rah’s story.

    “If I had to separate from Harvey I would find it really hard. I don’t know what I would do in that situation; it would be really difficult.

    I got divorced and ended up in a hospital psych ward. The hospital can’t discharge you unless you have somewhere to go, so I first got put into temporary accommodation. After being there, I then got moved into a St Mungo’s hostel by the council.

    When the council tells you that you’re moving, you don’t get any choice. So, it was very stressful not knowing if I would be allowed to take Harvey where they sent me. I was really lucky that I could take her here.

    I always find it hard to know what things would be like without her. It’s really good having her in my life. I love knowing that I’m always loved by her and that I have someone to care for.

    Harvey was kind of a surprise. A friend texted one day saying that she had rescued a cat from her friend’s abusive neighbour. The friend asked if we could foster her. It was only meant to be temporary, but once we had her I couldn’t give her back!

    She was only five months old; she was very cute but very scared. I’ve had her now for three years.

    Harvey is good company and provides a sort of stability in my life. Whilst lots of other things are always changing, I know she’s always there and constant.

    She knows when I’m unwell and is affectionate in a different way. She takes good care of me.

    Harvey and I are happy here. She loves having people around and doesn’t like being by herself. When I lived on my own she’d always get sad if I was out.

    Harvey has become like a resident cat. People feed her and when I’m not here and she has favourite people who she’ll sleep on as well. She spends a large portion of her time sleeping in a box under reception. That’s her favourite spot.

    When I’m away the hostel staff will send me photos of her looking cute. I’ll come home and everyone will say she was such a pleasure to look after. She’s very loving, and despite being a bit cheeky, she helps us all.


    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a pet can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    JB and Navrose’s story

    Image: JB and Navrose

    JB and his dog Navrose were homeless for 20 years. Most homelessness services don’t accept dogs, which made it difficult for JB to get the help he needed. Last year, JB and Navrose got a place together in a St Mungo’s hostel. JB tells us about his life, his hopes for the future and what Navrose means to him.

    I first met Navrose when she was a tiny puppy – just six weeks old. When I said her name she jumped up and licked my face, that’s how I knew it was the right name for her. That was nine years ago now. She’s been there for me ever since. 

    I’ve been homeless on and off for 20 years. I grew up in France but my mum kicked me out when I was 14 years old so I travelled around a lot in my teens and twenties. 

    I came to England 12 years ago and, at first, things were going quite well. I was living with my girlfriend and I had a job as a chef. I started from the bottom as a waiter and worked my way up until I had my own team and my own kitchen. 

    Things started to fall apart because of my drug addiction which had first started when I was a teenager. I lost my job. My girlfriend and I broke up which meant I had to leave the flat with nowhere to go. I blame myself, really. I haven’t been good to the people I loved the most. 

    Image: JB

    Sleeping rough is really tough. In the winter you’re freezing cold and in the summer you’re boiling hot. You worry constantly about where your next meal is coming from. I used to beg and would sometimes busk as well – I can play the saxophone.

    But most people would walk past and completely ignore me. Even if I just said good morning to them, they would assume the worst of me.

    Having Navrose by my side really helped me when I was on the streets. She would sleep all day long while I looked out for her, then at night I could sleep knowing she was looking out for me. I knew I had to keep going and keep finding money because I had to feed her – if I didn’t have enough for us both, I’d feed her first. At my lowest point I wanted to end my life. But I would think: who will look after her if I’m gone? She’s the reason I’m still here. She more than a dog to me, she’s family.

    The downside of having a dog when you’re homeless is that it makes it much more difficult to get help because most homelessness services don’t accept dogs. I could never give her up, and I think most homeless people with dogs feel the same. I’d already lost my family and friends, I couldn’t lose her too.   

    In 20 years of being homeless St Mungo’s is the first hostel to accept both me and Navrose.

    One winter they offered me a place and within 24 hours we were inside, together in the warm. If it wasn’t for St Mungo’s we would still be on the streets.

    Now that Navrose and I are living in a hostel things are looking up. I’m getting help with my addiction. I’ve been cooking again here – the other day I made a BBQ for everyone. In the future I’d like to go back to work. I lost a lot of confidence when I was homeless but I’m starting to get it back. I know that I am capable of working again, I just need to get stronger first.

    Image: Navrose

    Even now that we’re off the streets, Navrose is the one who keeps me going.

    She gets me up in the morning and helps me sleep at night. When I look at her, I feel happy. When I look at her I know I can get through anything.


    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a dog can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    Justin and Gunner’s story

    Justin became homeless after both his parents died. He had no-one to turn to. That changed when he met Gunner. St Mungo’s is one of the only organisations to allow dogs in our hostels.

    “It is nice to have someone there with you. It gives you a reason to go and do something. He is my best friend”.

     

    “I lived with my parents. I lived there for 20 years. And when they passed away, I got made homeless. My mum died of cancer, a year later my dad died of a heart attack.

    “I look forward to every time I see my dog. I was there when he was born. I watched him be born. He was the one. It’s nice to have someone there with you. It gives you the reason to go and do something, to get out and about”


    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a dog can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s this winter, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    Susan and Lady’s story

    Susan, who lives in one of our hostels in London with her dog Lady, talks about how Lady helps combat loneliness and gives her a sense of purpose. 

    “It’s not so scary when you have someone else with you, [someone] you feel safe with. She got my heart straight away.”

     

    When I haven’t got her I’m lost without her. I couldn’t imagine life without her.

    St Mungo’s is one of the only organisations to allow dogs in accommodation for homeless people. Susan and Lady’s story is part of our series which explores the relationship between St Mungo’s residents and their dogs.

    Its not so scary when you’ve got someone else with you, you feel safe with. She [Lady] got my heart straight away. She was spoiled from day one.

    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a dog can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s this winter, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    Paul and Treacle’s story

     Paul, who lives in one of our hostels in London with his dog Treacle, shares why she is so important to him.

    “When I was selling the Big Issue someone came up to me with £1k in an envelope, trying to buy her. I said no way, you could give me a blank cheque I still wouldn’t take it. she’s the best money I’ve ever spent

     

     

    She gives me something to focus on. She needs looking after, so it keeps me focussed. Otherwise I’d just be roaming around living in doorways. Gave me a kick up the butt to get myself sorted. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, whether we’ve been living in a tent or in a doorway. So long as she’s with me, she’s happy.

    St Mungo’s is one of the only organisations to allow dogs in accommodation for homeless people. Paul and Treacle’s story is part of our series which explores the relationship between St Mungo’s residents and their dogs.

    Here at St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support a dog can provide. That’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels. By donating to St Mungo’s this winter, you can help save two lives from homelessness. Donate here.

    Charrissa’s Story

    I became homeless after trying to rent a property that I found online. Everything seemed fine so I paid my deposit and first month’s rent. A week after I moved in, the police knocked on my door.

    It turned out that the landlord was actually a squatter and was renting out the property illegally. The police didn’t offer me any support, they just told me I had to leave, and I lost the deposit and rent I’d paid.

    I ended up sleeping under a stairwell

    After I lost my flat I sofa surfed for a while, and then ended up sleeping under a stairwell in a friend’s building for four months. I was worried about other people in the building complaining to the council and getting my friend evicted, so sometimes I stayed outside. That scared me a lot. I remember spending a night on a park bench once, but it felt so dangerous I couldn’t sleep.

    I had to quit my part-time job because of the travel costs, the stress of my situation and my depression – I just couldn’t keep it up. I was homeless for about eight months all in all. I kept going to the council for help but they just told me I didn’t qualify as a priority.

    It got to the point where I was really depressed, suicidal even. I kept thinking, “I’ve got a degree, how did I get here?” It was so hard not having my family around.

    I was scared of losing my dog Benjie

    Mostly I was scared of losing Benjie. People didn’t understand how much he helped me cope with everything. I wanted to be a responsible dog owner and it didn’t feel right to keep moving him from place to place, but he was my only lifeline. He was the only thing keeping me going.

    In November, as the weather was getting worse, my friend called StreetLink. They contacted the closest outreach team, who came and found me that same night. They took me and Benjie to No Second Night Out, a centre where St Mungo’s assess people who are homeless for the first time and find the best place for them to go.

    When I explained how important it was for me to keep my dog with me, they were keen to find me a place that accepted pets. Eventually me and Benjie moved into St Mungo’s Pagnell Street hostel.

    Now, I’m in my own place

    Now, I’m in my own place. It’s amazing for Benjie – he’s got a whole garden to play in now, rather than being stuck in one room all the time. St Mungo’s helped a lot, because they really took the time to get to know me and understand my needs and wants. And thank God they accept pets! Because I don’t know where me and Benjie would be today otherwise.

    I’ve been doing some therapy through their counselling programme LifeWorks, and it is really helping me. My depression and social anxiety have improved dramatically. I still struggle a bit, but I feel much better now that I’ve got my own place and I’m standing on my own two feet, and I’ve got affordable rent.

    St Mungo’s is really heaven to me. It’s a place where I feel safe, and I can progress with my future, because I’ve got the right people guiding me.

    One year later

    We caught up with Charrissa in the run up to Christmas 2019 to see how she was doing one year after she shared her story.

    Charrissa and Benjie have been joined by a pure Dalmation called Bella – and the two dogs get along well! Charrissa is hopeful for her future again. She is in the second year of her Masters degree in 3D animation and continues to volunteer with St Mungo’s.

    “My ambition is to start my own business and make a mobile phone app. I went to St Mungo’s Recovery College and they gave me a mentor who has been helping me with my business plan. It’s been brilliant, and I feel like I’m achieving my goals one by one.”

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