Pets Lifeline of the Homeless
November 1, 2015
Image: OK, that Photoshopped pic is a little bit of fun, but what's happening with the homeless is anything but. The latest "State of Homeless in America 2015" report says nearly 600,000 people either slept outside, in an emergency shelter or transitional housing last year. 5-10% have cats or dogs. Though Jesus warned the poor will always be with you, this is a shockingly high number for the richest country.
We see homeless people in the town of Pueblo all the time. A decade ago, Stan and I were involved in helping several of them. Visited their campsites down at the river. NOT a savory place to go. Homeless knifing other homeless is common, let alone a woman going down there by herself. More than a bit scary. Still here, still breathing. Met a lovely other (non-homeless) now-girlfriend through Mike, the homeless guy and his dog, Painter. Unbeknownst to each other, we met when we both tried to help them and didn't realize we lived only a few miles apart. Both of us and our husbands got taken in by Mike.
In 2004 Stan and I set up a foundation for Mike and Painter. Had a nice tidy bankroll for them for which we took nothing to administer. Then his cousin in Wyoming got wind of it and wanted control of the funds. It turned into a rowdy hot mess. We ended up refunding everyone's donations. Apologized to them. 99% of the donors said to give it to another charity. Gave it to Good Sam's. The rest we sent back by check. Not one was angry. They understood and were soooo nice. The cousin was really angry; wanted Mike's $$. Mike Moullet ended up in jail in Billings, Montana on drug charges, yet again, drug down into the abyss again by his junkie girlfriend. Don't know today if he's even alive. It's been 2 years.
After that, Stan and I went to the bottoms of Fountain Creek river, behind Walmart, where the homeless set up camps in Pueblo the city. Stan saw this other guy we'd seen down there sitting in front of Hobby Lobby and offered to take him to lunch. Noooooo, he didn't want food, just the money. So thinking he wanted it for drugs or booze. Also had a dog. About a year later, he was stabbed to death. Don't know what happened to his 4-legged.
Mike ended up losing his beloved black Lab, Painter when he was re-incarcerated. That ripped another wound for him.
Some of the encampments at the river are bare plastic overhangings of a tarp set up on sticks, secured by rope. The hut that Mike built was remarkable. The homeless like peanut butter. It's sweet, gives them energy and needs no refrigeration. We talked to Mike numerous times afterwards from jail in Montana, his collect calls to us. Plucked our heartstrings. Mike was talented in the construction field before dope got him and his little hut showed it. It was neatly done and in square. Nothing like most of the other "humpies". His was all packed out with his meager supplies, a busted mirror for grooming hung in a tree, and mostly dog food for Painter that mice got. After Mike was re-jailed, other homeless men raided it. It beat the heck out of their plastic shelters.
As explained on websites, some homeless people use dogs as a "snare" to involve us and some of these folks make more $$ daily panhandling than Stan and I do working 10 hours a day. These are the exception.
For others, a dog is their only companionship, their reason to live despite very humbling circumstances especially those that have no encampment and are continually on the move. Most shelters don't allow pets. Rather than abandon their 4-legged family or forego their booze and drugs, they opt to endure bitter cold. That is the story of David and Hope, and countless others. He refuses to leave Hope behind. Colorado Springs just built a homeless shelter that allows pets, but these facilities have limited beds and only recently became a growing trend. Most shelters require their patrons to leave drugs, booze and 4-leggeds at the door.
Often the homeless are seen giving part of whatever food they scrounge up to the dog, like sharing a hamburger, but do they know that onions are toxic to dogs and cats? Dr. Joel Wallach shared the other night on Coast To Coast AM that eating dog food is often more nutritious than people food because it's infused with a whole array of vitamins. While some homeless pets may eat well, comparatively speaking and often at the expense of their owner, there is no way to pay for shots or spaying and neutering. When people have tried to help by offering to take their pet to a vet, they're fearful the animal might not be returned and refuse. With the growing movement in larger cities to engage in "sweeps" that remove homeless, their pets are often rounded up, dumped at shelters and end up euthanized.
If you want to help, a good test is to offer a homeless person a hot meal and if they ask for $$ instead, you know it's not going in the right vein. No pun intended. Pay for a haircut; it's a luxury they've likely not enjoyed for a while. Carry a card that lists local shelters and food kitchens so you can hand them out to the homeless. Cash is often an enabler, not a help. If you want to give $$, check with GuideStar. It's like the BBB for non-profit organizations.
Today when I go to Walmart I see this same woman and another guy on the same corners. They are same folks from last year. Ditto for the Hwy. 50 overpass. It's the same people beneath it. They are lazy. If you've got time to panhandle get off your buns and work. Volunteer. Do something.
For others there a true and serious need. Many are our vets that fought to protect the homefront or those that belong to other nations. When they come home, sometimes their spouse has left, they've lost their homes, had to declare bankruptcy and finding work is nearly impossible. Obama circumvents Congress and gives amnesty to 11-12 million illegal immigrants and takes in tens of thousands of refugees, but lets 50,000 homeless American veterans rot. Please take two minutes and watch this video.
About 25% of the homeless are mentally ill and in desperate need of medical assistance. Some folks have temporarily fallen on hard times. These people aren't slackers; they've just hit a rough patch. Others have a bad go with health and lose their ability to work.
In addition to buying them a hot meal, non-perishable food items are appreciated especially bottled water as dehydration is a huge problem. A thermal blanket that costs a couple of bucks would be priceless. New socks and underwear, gently used gloves, scarves, mittens, coats, boots and winter hats are vital. Toothbrushes with covers, "hotel-size", single-use or travel-size toiletries are the right size to carry because the others are too heavy and often end up in the trash. Hotel size toiletries can be purchased in bulk for a few pennies each at hotel supply companies like HD Supply, Weiners, National Hospitality or Hotel Supplies Depot. Walgreens, Amazon and Walmart have good selections of travel size amenities. Mini-medical supplies like ChapStick, Neosporin, Band-Aids, hand sanitizers, kleenex, aspirin are necessary luxuries. Food and water, warm clothing they need first.
These things are better giving panhandlers and the homeless $20 that'll be snorted or imbibed by nightfall. Most people would rather hand off cash because they don't have to engage. We don't want to see their faces, look into their eyes because there but for the grace of God go I.