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.
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.
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.