When I pulled into a parking space, in the Berkshire Plaza, Naples, FL. I noticed a parked car that looked as if someone was living inside. The old Cadillac was busting at the seams, filled with the remnants of a past life, garbage bags and packing tape barely holding it all together.
As I was taking it all in, an older woman approached the vehicle holding a gray cat in her arms! I went over to her and was greeted with a very warm smile and a hello with a hint of a Texas drawl. My first thought was that this surely can not be the occupant of the vehicle. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a bun with a lovely clip. A black top and flowing Capri pants donned her tiny frame with impeccably polished nails and very nice jewelry.
We engaged in conversation and as her story began to spill from her frosted pink lips, I noticed the stains on her shirt, the pulls on her pants and the little bit of color left from her last trip to the salon. It was obvious this woman had come from better times and this was a somewhat recent life change.
She introduced herself as Dorothy and then proudly showed me her three babies, Lizzy & Baby, her two Persian kitties and Silver Bullet, her car and make shift home. In our brief meeting, I found out she has no one in her life but God and her kitties. She would not go to a shelter because she didn't want to give up her cats. She became homeless after a large rent increase left her not able to afford her condo. Dorothy and the cats have been living on the streets for one year. She does receive social security and that covers her basics but not enough to get her back into an apartment.
As we were chatting, people were stopping by and checking on her. They brought food, Walmart gift cards, cat food and litter and some just a kind word. Publix would not allow her to park in their lot but the 7-11/Mobil station welcomed her. The employees allowed her to use the restroom, hang out in the air conditioning and they brought her clothes home to wash for her. The Cell Phone Repair shop let her charge her phone there. Dorothy had made this plaza her home.
When I left I couldn't stop thinking about her and the cats. The day i met her, it was 95 degrees and her car battery was dead. They were cats in a hot tin car. I didn't know what I was going to do but I knew I couldn't leave her there.
Every day brought with it a new problem for Dorothy. First the car battery kept dying, kind people kept giving her a jump but it just wasn't holding a charge. Then the police showed up, issued her tickets, a court date and took her plates and drivers license. Luckily I happen to know an amazing attorney and he is handling all of the legal issues. Dominick spent a day last week driving Dorothy and the cats to the department of motor vehicles and the insurance company. Dorothy had no other ID on her other than her license, which the police took, so in order to complete the necessary steps to get her car back on the road, Dominick had to order her a new birth certificate from Texas.
We were becoming increasingly afraid that the police would impound the car and Dorothy would lose everything, something needed to happen fast. I called 211, Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Homeless Coalition and one thing became very clear, nothing was going to happen fast, if at all. This is when I turned to Facebook, the power of social media has helped us save thousands of cats, surely we can use it to help Dorothy.
I posted her story and the first night we received enough in donations to rent a motel room for a few nights. When I went to get Dorothy to bring her to the motel, she asked me why I was helping her and before I could answer she replied to her own question. She said, "Is it because I need a break?" I responded yes, it's because you need a break and off we went to the Red Roof Inn, me, Dorothy and the two cats.
When we entered the room she looked at the bed and squealed in delight. She was ecstatic, she hadn't slept in a bed for a year, she really hadn't slept much at all. Living in a parking lot isn't exactly relaxing.
Silver Bullet has definitely seen better days but she is extremely attached to the car and as she says, it's paid for. The car cannot be driven because it has no plates or insurance and it doesn't start. Yesterday Morley's Towing donated their services and towed the car to our friend, who is donating his talents to fix the car. Unfortunately the problem lies within the electrical system and not something our otherwise mechanical genius can not fix. Is there anyone out there that can help with this? Even though we have hit this bump in the road, it is good that Silver Bullet is no longer a sitting duck in the parking lot, just waiting to be impounded.
To date we have received $5500 in donations. I knew the cat Community would not disappoint! Together you have saved this woman's life and her two fluffballs. Yesterday I paid for five more nights at the motel. I have posted the receipts. $625.95 is the total. Our next step is to find her a permanent residence. We will need a security deposit plus first months rent. We estimate there to be about $500 needed to get the car back on the road plus whatever the electrical repair will cost.
Please help if you can, please make a donation today. Our PayPal is [email redacted] or www.naplescatalliance.org/support
THANK YOU to everyone that has donated, shared, brought her food and sent well wishes. I knew this group of cat lovers would not disappoint. You guys are incredible!!!
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