My name is Hailey, I am 23 years old and I have overcome not just homelessness but homelessness with a pet.
Last year around this time I was in a very toxic relationship that ended up being life changing. We lived together and due to certain circumstances and just abusive behavior I was kicked out with my pup who we had rescued and was 3 weeks old at the time. Being that I had never been in this type of situation before I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t reach out to my family because my past relationship had ruined our communication and friends didn’t want to get involved with ‘’my mess’’ which left me with just myself and my dog. First thing was first and I got me and my dog (Chance) a motel room for a couple of nights until I could come up with a long term game plan. As the days grew closer to check out I realized being homeless, its not thinking long term all the time, its majority figuring out how you’ll get through each day as it passes. Now it’s not like I didn’t have a job because I did, but when you have nowhere to keep your dog for an entire 8-10 hour shift, and you’re starting to smell like dog and body odor because you only have one outfit, you get fired. Like me. So now I have lost my place I called home, I had no one to turn to for help at the time, and I had just lost my job. I had officially hit rock bottom and it was starting to affect me mentally, emotionally and physically. I had researched countless homeless shelters because after a week of staying in a motel, I had now been living out of my car for a while.
After calling an enormous amount of homeless shelters in south Florida, it was clear that not ONE was able to help me AND my dog. They were willing to help me but wanted me to give my dog up. Like almost 100% of the homeless with pets do, I refused to get help without my dog. I had been kicked to the streets, alone, hungry, broke, judged, and at my lowest point, reached out to countless suicide hotlines, and the ONLY one who gave me a purpose to keep pushing and gave me a reason to live was my dog. He never judged me but instead consoled me, he never went hungry because I would sacrifice the smallest amount of food so he could eat, but most importantly, he never left my side. I was fortunate enough to be able to eventually reach out to my family and they welcomed me and Chance back with open arms.
Before this, I never thought twice about homelessness, never cared to know their story, and didn’t realize homelessness doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race or religion. What stood out to me the most was that when you are homeless and have a pet, your chances of getting back on your feet decrease by 70%. In the country we live in today, that just didn’t seem possible, fair or just to me at all. I have never done a hard drug a day in my life, never popped pills, had never drank, and wasn’t lazy. This stigma that all homeless people are drug addicts, alcoholics, or did this to themselves is 100% inaccurate. I didn’t meet any of those stigmas and still ended up there, only difference is I was lucky enough to make it out. I know what it’s like to have people look right through you, I know what it’s like to have people grip their purse tighter when they see you walking with dirty clothes and a dog. No one asked me how I was doing, I got rejected every time I asked for help, and that’s what leads you to believe you are worthless. No one deserves to be treated like they are not human, no one deserves to sleep on the street, and no one deserves to be judged for a situation they’re in no matter how they ended up there. It’s crazy because I named my dog Chance back when I rescued him because I thought it was me giving him this second chance at life, little did I know it was him who saved me.
This is my story, my purpose, and my motivation for what I want to create for this community of people and their pets. I have been there, I have felt every emotion, and I have decided to use my experience to not only spread awareness and cease the stigmas and judgement, but to give the help that this state, and country so desperately lacks.