People

Published: March 27, 2022 | Updated: March 28, 2022

Kevin, his cat Tinkerbell and how he credits St Mungo’s and BCHA with literally saving his life

Kevin Trim and Tinkerbell with Hannah Brightman, his support worker from BCHA.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

In a story echoing the well-known book and film A Street Cat Called Bob, Kevin Trim and his cat Tinkerbell were homeless and slept rough in a tent for two years.

But now, thanks to the charitable housing association BCHA and homelessness charity St Mungo’s, Kevin and Tinkerbell are celebrating the first anniversary in their own home.

Kevin, 57, said: “In 2016, I lost my rented flat due to a personal break-up.

“At the time I was drinking heavily and found myself with nowhere to go, no job and not many prospects for the future.

“All I had was my kitten, Tinkerbell.

“I stayed with a friend for a couple of weeks and then I felt I had no choice but to go on the streets.

“So, I went and bought a £15 tent for myself and Tinkerbell.

“I didn’t know it then, but we would end up living in a tent for the next two years.”

Kevin said that in the summer the tent was “like an oven” and in winter it was wet with condensation.

He said: “My clothes were always damp.

“I could only have ‘tramp showers’ – washing with wet wipes – and I lived in constant fear of losing our belongings and our safe place to sleep.

“I took Tinkerbell everywhere with me in her carry case and was always scared that she would run off.

“But apart from one occasion, she never left me.

“Once, I came back to find my tent and all my belongings had been taken and it really felt like the world had ended.

“I went to a soup kitchen and with their help I got a new tent.

“I also found a new place to camp, but eventually we were moved on again.

“They were desperate times.

“But I was determined to stop drinking though and gradually went from two bottles of whiskey a day, to four cans, then eventually two cans.

“When I weaned myself down to one can, I knew I could finally stop and I’m proud to say I have been sober now for five years.”

Kevin and Tinkerbell moved their tent close to the train tracks in Westbourne in a bid to stay hidden.

Kevin said: “One day I heard a bloke shout over the fence: ‘Is there someone in a tent down there?’

“I didn’t know whether to answer.

“But I did and it was a guy called Neil from the homeless charity St Mungo’s Outreach Team.

“Neil told me if I carried on sleeping rough, because of my age, I probably wouldn’t survive another winter, and he took me to BCHA’s 10 St Paul’s hostel in Bournemouth.

“The first thing I was worried about was if Tinkerbell could stay there too, but they said that was no problem.

“I filled in a form and by 2pm that same day I was in a warm room.”

Kevin also met BCHA support worker Hannah Brightman, one of the people he credits with ‘saving his life’.

Hannah said: “Kevin was at 10 St Pauls for just over two years and we all fell in love with Tinkerbell and how devoted they were to each other.

“From there they went into our Henley House supported housing and a few months later, our Tenancy Sustainment Team could see they were ready to branch out on their own and we helped them move into a one bedroom general needs BCHA property and source some basic furniture.

“We all feel very proud of how Kevin has overcome his addiction and has created a warm and cosy home for him and Tinkerbell.

“And I for one feel so privileged to have been able to support them along the way.”

Kevin said: “Tinkerbell has been central to my recovery and survival – something to look at, look after and love.

“If I hadn’t had her and Neil hadn’t had found me and the staff at BCHA hadn’t helped me, I know I would be dead and that is no exaggeration.

“I’m so grateful and when people say to me: ‘Look around – you have a home, you’ve done it,’ it makes me feel brilliant.”