Rural Janesville resident opens her house to woman and her cat living in SUV
JANESVILLE Patricia Thomas has dreamed of a home in the country where she and her aging cat Tasha could escape a life of homelessness, struggle and solitude inside a Chevrolet Blazer.
For the time being, Thomas' dream is a reality.
A rural Janesville woman—an animal lover who, like Thomas, lives alone—read of Thomas' and Tasha's plight in The Gazette. Thomas has been living in her vehicle with her 14-year old cat for a year.
As freezing rain pelted down Sunday afternoon, something inside told the woman she could be Thomas' last chance, the woman said.
"I said a prayer, and then I went to find her," the woman said. "There she was, at Wal-Mart, parked behind a big snow pile."
Without hesitation, the woman offered Thomas and Tasha a place to stay at her country home, which is south of Janesville near Afton.
"She gave me the most shocked look I've ever seen. Then she said, 'I'll follow you home,'" the woman said.
The woman, who is 67 and lives by herself, said she wants to remain anonymous. She doesn't want attention or credit for helping Thomas. More important, the woman said she wants Thomas and Tasha to have privacy.
At the woman's house, Thomas and her cat have their own bedroom, a bathroom and a television.
The woman, who works during the day as a dog-sitter, says she's told Thomas she can relax and get her life together.
Anything in the refrigerator is Thomas' if she wants it.
"Pat really likes her pizza, but I cook healthy foods," the woman said, "I left her a big bowl of vegetable soup today. She said she really liked it," the woman said.
Thomas, who is a Dane County native, has no job, no family.
The 62-year-old Thomas struggles with anxiety and depression along with diabetes and high blood pressure. Her income is Social Security disability insurance.
After dealing with a string of landlords around Madison who she said took advantage of her, Thomas decided to live in her vehicle with Tasha.
She parked overnight at rest stops and parking lots. Her goal has been to save up enough money to buy a modest home, she said.
Most of Thomas' spending revolves around caring for her cat, which has painful arthritis. Thomas has been unwilling to move into any place where she couldn't have her cat with her.
Thomas came to Janesville after months of being chased off parking lots by Madison authorities. She said police here leave her alone.
Every local shelter Thomas contacted declined to give her services, mostly because she owns a pet.
The rural Janesville woman said she's standing back so Thomas can make her own choices.
"I don't try to get too far into her life. I don't ask Pat about her past. I've just told her I'm here to be a temporary friend and give her whatever she needs," she said.
Now, the woman said, Thomas is in meetings with banks and a realtor. She's trying to get qualified for a home loan. She's got a doctor appointment next week.
Meanwhile, dozens of area residents have called and emailed The Gazette after reading about Thomas. Some have asked The Gazette to pass along their phone numbers to Thomas so they could offer donations of cash, food and other items.
Thomas has accepted help from a few residents.
"I just hope all of this can give Pat back some faith in humanity and people,"
the woman said. "She's really been beaten down to the ground."
When she arrived home Wednesday, the woman pulled in the driveway and saw Tasha the cat sitting in the big picture window and looking into the yard. It was a heartening sight the woman said she won't forget.
"Tell me they haven't found home—at least for now."