Looking through some messages on Facebook this morning, I found a post that includes three photos: homeless women and their dogs — photographer(s) unknown. I was immediately drawn to the photos. In these hard times, the scenario could easily be any one of us. It could easily be me and my “kids,” knock on wood.
The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 3.5 million people are homeless. Further, they estimate that between 5% to 10% have cats and/or dogs. This number is as high as 24% in some areas of the US. For many, homelessness is temporary until they can find housing or rent subsidy. But for the homeless with pets, the challenge is greater. Faced with choosing between their pet and a roof over their heads, they choose to stay on the streets with their pets for the emotional bond that exists between pet and owner. Their pets also provide warmth and protection.
Recognizing the needs, people are joining together to form organizations to help. Animal Care & Control of New York City has a unique program called the Safety Net Program which helps owners keep their pets (including the homeless) in order to prevent them from going into shelters. Their assistance includes low-cost/sliding scale behavior training for cats and dogs, reduced cost boarding/foster homes during crises, free guidance for pet-related landlord/tenant issues, reduced cost vet care for those on restricted incomes and more.
Through volunteer collection sites, Feeding Pets of the Homeless accepts donated pet food and delivers it to food banks and/or soup kitchens which have agreed to distribute the food to the homeless and impoverished in local communities across the US and Canada. They also accept cash donations for veterinarian care and to purchase pet food.
Los Angeles has many homeless people that own one or more dogs. The ASAP – Association to Save Abandoned Pets has been trying unsuccessfully to get the homeless to bring their dogs in to the local vet. The ASAP will provide transportation and cover all medical expenses plus give the homeless owner a $20 bonus. Perhaps the word is just not getting out to them. If you find a homeless person in the Los Angeles area who is willing take his/her dog to the vet at no expense, please let ASAP know. Call (310) 306-8166.
Here are a few more photos of the homeless and their pets. Keep it in mind that this really could happen to any one of us. Consider making a donation in your neighborhood.