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Sunderland teen chose living on streets rather than give up her beloved dog

Shannon Finnigan, Paul Finnigan and Peanut.
Shannon Finnigan, Paul Finnigan and Peanut.

A Sunderland teenager chose to live on the streets rather than give up her beloved dog.

Shannon Finnigan decided she would be better off living rough with Peanut than in a shared flat without him.

They are the most amazing family and I’m the most settled I’ve ever been in my life

Shannon Finnigan

However, thanks to a loving Wearside couple both young woman and dog now have a family of their own.

Now, Shannon is telling her story to make other young people aware of the options open to them.

The 18-year-old, who now lives in Houghton, endured a difficult childhood after her dad died and from the age of five-years-old she found herself in and out of care.

Estranged from her birth mother, Shannon finally ended up sharing a flat with a friend in Sunderland, but because the landlord wouldn’t allow pets she was forced to give her pet puppy Peanut – a constant companion – to friends.

However, being without Peanut was too heartbreaking for Shannon to bear so she decided to live on the streets to be reunited with him.

Shannon’s social worker stepped in and recommended she try Supported Lodgings.

The scheme, run by Together for Children, provides accommodation for young people, aged 16 to 21, looking for a place to live.

As her situation was urgent, she was quickly matched with Paul and Lorraine Finnigan who had signed up to the scheme.

Shannon and Peanut have now lived happily with Paul and Lorraine for almost a year, becoming part of the family.

Shannon, a trainee carer, said: “At first I didn’t like the idea of moving in with a family. I didn’t think I would be able to function in a family setting, but I decided to give it a go.

“I’ve fitted in with the family more than any of us ever thought. I’ve even changed my last name so I can be a Finnigan. They are the most amazing family and I’m the most settled I’ve ever been in my life.”

Lorraine, said: “We hadn’t even met Shannon, but we said yes to taking her in when we heard about how she was so desperate to keep Peanut. We just knew that someone who would fight that much for her pet would be someone we could open our door to.

“We all bonded quite quickly, which I think we were all surprised by, and now she calls myself and Paul ‘mam and dad’ and we’ve even been on a family holiday.

“It has been fantastic to see her grow and flourish while she’s been living with us. We’re so proud of what she’s achieved in such a short time.”

Laura Mills, supported lodgings manager at Together for Children, said: “Like Shannon, many young people leaving care find it difficult to move on to full independence straight away and supported lodging provides a stepping-stone, giving young people the chance to learn how to live independently in the supportive environment of a family home.”

To find out more about Together for Children’s Supported Lodging scheme visit https://togetherforchildren.org.uk/children-and-young-people/supported-lodgings.