It’s National Pet Month and it’s only right that I tell you about my housemate/boss Muffin:
Muffin is around 17 years old, and I was there when she was born. We first started living together when she was one.
Why am I writing about her on a hub for stories/reports about health and homelessness? Good question. And before I answer that question, I need to introduce you to another important part of this tale (tail?) – Milk:
Milky joined Muffin and I when Muffin was four – around three years before we all became homeless – and died in 2019. She wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, but she was a fantastic friend of mine. Muffin hated her. But that’s another story.
I’ve always had mental health issues and the girls saw me in some of the worst lows of my life. On the day of my survivaversary they were both wonderful. Muffin was a guard, never leaving my side. Milk licked my tears away and insisted on being held while I cried. They were the reason I’d kept myself going until I couldn’t take any more and my reason for fighting to get well afterwards.
In that period I couldn’t face going outside but they needed to be fed. I would find money to buy food for them and then get myself something just to know I would be there feed it to them. They were my family, and all of my strength I found from them.
When it became clear that I was definitely going to be evicted from my property, Housing Solutions wanted me to go into supported accommodation. They said the girls would go to foster care until I was on my feet. I don’t remember anything after that suggestion other than crying hysterically and my support worker ending the meeting.
My support worker got it. She understood that without Muffin and Milk I would give up. She fought to keep us together and we were put at the top of the list for a council property. When one was allocated, it needed work. I was evicted before that work was started, let alone completed, and we became homeless. Luckily someone offered to take in the girls, and I was offered a sofa.
I’ve written previously about the flat we moved into and how I never felt safe. There was one incident early in 2021 where I returned home from work to find my lock had been changed. I wasn’t behind on rent, I hadn’t had anything from electric/gas/the council to say they needed access… I was at a loss to why someone would change the lock.
It was around 10pm and had to reach out of hours and get a locksmith to come. The whole time, I was panicking, not knowing if Muffin was still in the flat, if she was ok, what had happened. I didn’t care about any of my possessions – I needed to get to her. Muffin is a very talkative cat (as anyone who has ever had a virtual meeting with me can attest) but she wasn’t responding to me through the letterbox.
The locksmith came and I flew into that flat and found her under a duvet. She was fine. The council had no record of requesting my lock be changed and the locksmith said the lock fitted was not the type the council have installed to their doors. The only conclusion was that it was something to do with the drug dealer from the flat beneath mine who had not long been evicted. Someone must have wanted back into that flat and gotten the wrong floor.
Aside from my own anecdotal evidence that pets are hugely important to our mental health – there are plenty of ‘proper’ people saying it too:
All of which makes it so hard to believe that people experiencing homelessness are frequently having to decide between accommodation and their companions. These cats, dogs and other kinds of other animals, are there when other humans aren’t; they love unconditionally; they are friends, family and hope all rolled into one and all they ask in return is kindness. We shouldn’t be expecting people to give up their only lifeline for a chance of a roof. A roof doesn’t lick away your tears or piss on your bills.
I became homeless to keep my girls and I’d make that same choice again.