MANCHESTER, NH – Screams from upstairs neighbors woke Destiny Maynard shortly after 6 o’clock on the morning of Jan 17, 2022.
She quickly got out of bed and opened her apartment door to see what the commotion was all about.
“Get out of the house. There’s a fire. A fire,” her neighbors yelled to her.
Maynard, who has four rescued cats, quickly found two of them and headed outside. She went back inside, however, in search of the other two.
Firefighters arrived at the Cartier Street apartment building and entered the burning structure “to rescue trapped residents” – Maynard. They grabbed her and led her out of harm’s way. They then brought out one of the cats but couldn’t find the fourth.
It was a bitterly cold and snowy day, with high winds fanning the flames. By 7:05 a.m., a third alarm was sounded. Another hour would pass before the fire was finally under control.
The house burned for more than two hours before firefighters brought the blaze under control.
Three residents were brought to Catholic Medical Center for smoke exposure.
The building, which firefighters said housed seven people, was completely gutted. All occupants were displaced.
It wasn’t until 11 hours later that Maynard, after being allowed back into her apartment, found her fourth cat, Oliver, hiding under the couch.
Since that day, she said her life has been turned upside down.
“That morning, my entire life changed. I was then homeless, with nowhere to go,” she said. “I was not prepared to not only have to buy all my basic necessities all over again but get myself into a home.”
The Red Cross provided her with a $500 gift card and a supply of personal hygiene products, something for which she is extremely grateful.
She was referred to Southern New Hampshire Services for housing, but Maynard said they have a waiting list.
Neighbors provided clothing – “That was really nice,” she said — and for a short time she stayed with a friend but says having four cats is imposing. With no family nearby, it has been a tough existence, especially with four animals.
“I will not surrender them,” she said. “They are my family.”
It has been two months of shuffling between area motels, along with Oliver and her other three cats, Jodey, Milo and Begheera.
Getting a hotel room, she explained, is tricky. Some Manchester hotels won’t book a room for a city resident, she said. Few are pet friendly and those that are, usually will only allow dogs.
Additionally, if a hotel will allow cats, an extra deposit of up to $250 is required – up front.
Staying at hotels is a costly existence and in those two months, she has used up what little savings she had trying to stay housed.
Maynard, who turned 24 last month, has been on her own since she was 17, working mainly in the restaurant field. She signed her first lease when she was 18. The Cartier Street apartment had been home for about eight months.
She works two jobs: as a bartender at Jewel Music Venue on Canal Street, and as a cleaner for her landlord, Stratton Oakmont Inc. of Nashua. Her income fluctuates from week to week, which is why she has the backup cleaning job.
Immediately after the fire, Maynard began her search for an apartment. She was approved for a one-bedroom apartment, but the landlord wanted first and last month’s rent upfront along with a security deposit for a total of $3,800.
She then reached out to her former landlord and was supposed to move into a new apartment on March 1. Her landlord said a tenant was moving out because his lease was up.
The tenant, however, did not move and the landlord began eviction proceedings. The apartment should be available April 1, but a judge could give the tenant more time, especially if there is a COVID-19 issue, she said.
If that happens, it will be another setback for her to face.
“Every day has been a battle, but I am grateful for the things I do have,” she said. “Every day I think about how I am going to rebuild. It’s scary, but it will happen. It just is going to take time.”
Maynard remains hopeful for the future.
“A few weeks ago everything seemed like it was falling apart but with time I know it will be okay,” she said. “The hard part is almost over!”
Her mother started a GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-destiny-and-her-cats to help Maynard rebuild her life.