Leslie Mann wakes up with a fridge and cupboard full of food, a roof over her head, amenities for daily living, and the man of the house, Mutai, a 10lb terrier who licks her incessantly. The sun shines through her tall windows, dog figurines line the window sills, garden beds fill the view outside her front door. Book-stuffed shelves with her favorite literature are within reach from her wheelchair. Hers is a place to call home.
But attaining a handicap-friendly, affordable home wasn’t easy to grasp.
Mann grew up in NYC and lived with her parents while a young adult. Childhood was emotionally difficult for her. She didn’t fit in with groups at school and her interests in western-cowboy history and poetry didn’t align with other childrens’ fancies. Later, she earned a living as a factory worker and a filing clerk until her family moved and her brother went to college.
Mann struggled and eventually became homeless after her NYC apartment burned down. For a while, she lived on the streets, seeking shelter in abandoned buildings and eating what she could find in garbage cans. Her housing instability prevented her from owning a dog, but she found ways to relocate stray dogs in the City, asking around who would take care of a rescue cared for on pauper’s salary.
She found solace in good deeds. One day, she overheard a young couple at odds with each other, when the young man raged and grabbed his dog by the neck. Mann swiftly intervened and took the dog away, but not without struggle. He acted on impulse, threatening Mann with a knife. On-foot patrol officers quickly intervened and no one was hurt. Now, her eyes shine when she thinks back to the memory. She saved a dog’s life risking her own.
People took notice of her acts. They wanted to help her the way she was saving dogs’ lives. Regular goers to the dog park saved money to help her move into her first upstate apartment— she settled first in Woodstock, then Lake Katrine in a Motel 19. Lake Katrine suited her needs. For a while she walked everywhere, finding comfort in familiar habits, and eventually she applied to live at The Stuyvesant, supportive housing for seniors in Kingston, NY, owned and operated by RUPCO.
The Stuyvesant offered neighbors in nearby apartments who shared similar interests, a pet-friendly policy, and the flight of stairs that hindered her mobility. When RUPCO completed the Woodstock Commons in 2013, Mann transferred to a ground floor apartment. Of course, she kept Mutai, now 14 years old.
Independent Living has deepened and widened her personal growth. On spring and summer days, the surrounding outdoors are “wonderful and unbeatable.” She finds pleasure in taking care of her canine companion, ensuring he lives the life of a pampered pup. Meals on Wheels delivers food to her every week. Her healthcare is in place. When she isn’t listening to audio books or watching movies, she brainstorms ideas for a book about a man dedicated to his dog; a quasi-reversal of dog loyalty to humans, a testament to her life’s work.
She isn’t finished making a difference. There’s always more dogs to rescue, more activism to spark. With her sense of Home established and her accessibility needs met in a supportive housing community, Leslie’s starting a new chapter in her quest for goodwill.