Liv­ing life in their car with eleven pets

South Waikato News - - Your Paper, Your Place - JO LINES-MACKENZIE

Liv­ing in a car with six cats, four chi­huahuas and a rab­bit was never part of their plan.

Sel­wyn and Shirley Mcmil­lan went from a com­fort­able home in Whakatane to a board­ing house to a tent and now their ma­roon Toy­ota Scepter is home.

It’s mid-af­ter­noon on a week­day and they’re parked up off the main street in Toko­roa be­cause they’d heard there was cheap hous­ing in the South Waikato town.

The car is packed with stuff an­i­mal cages, clothes, blan­kets.

Much of their des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion ap­pears to stem from Sel­wyn’s health.

The 58-year-old suf­fers epilep­tic seizures that came on in 1978 af­ter he came off a farm bike and crashed head first into con­crete wall.

They’ve wors­ened since the pair be­came home­less to the point where Shirley, 54, was forced to leave her job to care for him.

They’ve been told that it’s not a mat­ter of if but when for Sel­wyn.

Be­ing home­less has ex­ac­er­bated their prob­lems and peo­ple as­sum­ing they choose this life doesn’t help, Shirley says.

‘‘It’s very frus­trat­ing ... Noth­ing about it is en­joy­able. You can’t do any­thing.

The cou­ple live off Sel­wyn’s ACC ben­e­fit of $445 a week, and $130 of that goes to stor­age of their be­long­ings.

Shirley says she isn’t el­i­gi­ble for a ben­e­fit due to their cir­cum­stances.

They eat once ev­ery two days so there’s enough food for the an­i­mals’ daily meal.

The cats - Merlot, Lit­tle Lady, Kinks, Al­lie-mae, Zink and Tig­ger - the dogs - Sharneeka, Kieran, Cosima, Huia - and Kandee the rab­bit share the car too.

Yet part­ing with them isn’t an op­tion, Shirley says.

‘‘The an­i­mals keep us go­ing. Ev­ery day hav­ing to get up to feed them, ev­ery day hav­ing to take them to the toi­let, get­ting kisses from them - they are what is keep­ing us alive.’’

The Mcmil­lans are pin­ing for a nor­mal life again, dream­ing of go­ing to their own toi­let or sit­ting at their own ta­ble.

They are hop­ing Sel­wyn’s seizures will be­come more man­age­able in a house, al­low­ing Shirley to find em­ploy­ment again.

She’s pre­vi­ously worked as a check­out op­er­a­tor. She’d even look at re­lief milk­ing so she could take Sel­wyn with her.

She misses the sim­ple things ‘‘I would love to have a cup of tea ev­ery night,’’ she said.

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