Mick, 37, who lives on the streets of London with his 12-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Benson, was made homeless after losing his job and then his home in 2014
A homeless man can’t secure a place to live because hostels won’t take him in with the dog that “saved his life”.
Mick lost his job and then his home before ending up on the streets of London with his Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Benson, in 2014.
He told MyLondon: “Without him, I think I would have gone under.
“And he wouldn’t be able to survive without me, simply because of our bond. We’re together 24/7.
“He understands me, I understand him. He’s the only thing I put my trust into and he’s never let me down.”
But because of his beloved 12-year-old pooch, the Londoner has struggled for seven years to get housing.
Their bond has only grown stronger over the years since Mick, who asked to only be called his first name, adopted Benson from his previous owner, who couldn’t take care of him anymore, at 13-months-old.
“How could I say no to him?” said the Londoner lovingly.
“When he was three, I lost my job, then couldn’t afford my rent so lost my property, and ended up on the streets. I wrestled with my conscience over whether it was right to keep him – but he’s been through so much upheaval, I couldn’t not.”
The duo appeared on the hit ITV show Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs and are known in their local area, around Liverpool Street and Hackney, with people like the shop owners, taxi drivers and station owners all keeping an eye on Benson .
“I’m always conscious of him – that people might try and take him,” said the 37-year-old, “Rest and sleep is the hardest thing on the streets – you’re sleeping with one eye open.”
He said: “Everything has to be centered around him and I have to worry about what’s going to happen to him. And then you can’t take him to certain services.”
This includes many accommodation options for those who are experiencing homelessness. In fact, only around 10 percent of hostels in the UK are pet friendly, according to StreetVet a charity working to increase this statistic and delivering free veterinary care to the pets of people experiencing homelessness around the country.
According to StreetVet, to apply for housing benefits, some form of address is required.
A hostel address is usually used for this, but as Mick said he struggles to get into hostels with Benson, he is unable to even get started with the benefits process. He also noted that many housing associations will not accept dogs.
“You get accused of making yourself intentionally homeless so they don’t take any responsibility,” he said.
“I’ve been trying to get married for seven years. You get the choice between your room and your pet – that’s not a choice. They’re not acknowledging the support of Benson as important in my life, despite my health conditions.”
Mick suffers with anxiety and depression, which he said contributed to losing his job. He believes he would have turned to drink and drugs if it had not been for Benson.
He said: “He’s my escape and gives me something to focus on. He’s a mainstay in my life and keeps me grounded. If he’s not around me, I feel lost – I feel secure when I’m with him. He’s not so much for protection as he is for comfort. You look at him and think, ‘It ain’t all bad – I’ve got him. As long as I’ve got him, I’m okay’.”
He added: “When you’re on the street, so many things can happen. If I start getting heated with someone, he can bring me back down. He reminds me that there are more important things. If anything would happen to me, then what would happen to him? If anything happened to him, then that would kill me, and if anything happened to me then that would kill him – that’s it.”
Mick claims that Benson’s role in ‘saving his life’ has not been taken into consideration in his attempts to find a home for both of them.
Even during the pandemic, he claims he was not offered a room with his dog.
He added: “I’d sooner take the risk on the street with my boy than be separated from him – simple.”
He also says knows some people have only just had their pets returned to them.
He said: “The authorities didn’t grasp the bond between man and dog.”
Founder of StreetVet Jade Statt explained that some places in the UK were better than others at housing owners with their pets – but the resounding feedback from her clients was that a poor effort was made in London.
“They didn’t realize that people who have pets and are homeless are much less likely to engage in antisocial behavior because that would end up in them being separated from their dog. You have a reason, a role, a responsibility,” said Jade.
She added: “Because that dog was everything to them”.
Summing up his dreams for the future, Mick said: “My dream is to have somewhere to call home – a self-contained property where me and Benson can live out our days.”