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Tag: homeless shelters

Dog park opens for homeless at LA shelter

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For decades, Los Angeles was one of those city’s that, like most, turned away homeless people in need of shelter who refused to part with their dogs.

More often than not, nationwide, those homeless aren’t willing to part with what is often not just one of the few things they own, but one of the few things they love, and, maybe more importantly, that loves them back.

As a result, thousands of homeless people don’t receive needed services.

In recent years, Los Angeles has been working to change that, and one of the latest examples is a dog park, opened Friday, at the Weingart Center, a transitional residential shelter in the heart of downtown LA’s Skid Row, on 6th and San Pedro streets.

The dog park is part of the center’s newly launched Assistance Animal Accommodation Program that allows people to stay at the facility with their pets.

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Shaded by a tree and decorated with dog graphics, the Weingart Center’s park comes amid a growing recognition that shelter pet prohibitions have posed a major barrier to helping L.A.’s 53,000 homeless people turn their lives around.

Two years ago, the Inner City Law Center and L.A. Animal Services opened a weekly pet resource center on skid row, providing free food, supplies, veterinary care and spay and neuter services.

Several big shelters have relaxed or eliminated pet bans, and now, Mayor Eric Garcetti plans to make accepting pets a big part of his upcoming, $20-million citywide shelter expansion.

“People in the streets have always had dogs and now we’re finally starting to incorporate services so they will want to go into housing,” said Lori Weise, founder of Downtown Dog Rescue, which helps run the resource center.

Nearly half of skid row’s pet owners are homeless and most of the rest live in motels, renovated flophouses or shelters, officials at skid row resource center said. The Weingart dog park will be restricted to use by the center’s clients, 15 of whom currently live with dogs or cats in the 11-story center, formerly the El Rey Hotel.

“We know that individuals sleeping on the street have pets for comfort, protection and solace, and faced with transitional housing that doesn’t allow pets, they therefore stay on the streets longer,” said Tonja Boykin, chief operating officer for the Weingart Center.

“We want people to come in,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

The dog park measures 22-feet by 23-feet. Grants and donations totaling more than $15,000 helped pay for it. In addition to the dog exercise area, the Weingart Center arranges access to veterinary care, obedience training and more services.

“Homeless people stay on the street because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to their pet. They’re not willing to put it in a separate shelter,” Jet Doye, senior development director for the center, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “Women stay in violent situations because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen to their pet if they leave.”

One of the residents visiting the park on opening day was Jennie Link, there with her 95-pound bull mastiff/pit bull mix.

“This is my baby. He’s everything to me,” she said.

(Top photo: Bobby Ann Luckett, a Weingart Center resident, visits the new dog park with her dogs, Princess Ann, an 8-year-old Maltese/terrier mix, and Chub-Chub Lee, a 16-year-old cocker spaniel-Rottweiler mix., by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times; lower photo: Resident Kimberlee McKee gives her dog Maggie May a kiss during the opening of the new dog park at the Weingart Center, by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Homeless man gets help after video plea for his dog, Meaty

Robert wasn’t homeless when he adopted a pit bull named Meaty from Sacramento’s animal shelter a few months ago.

But not much later, after an eviction, he found himself in that situation, and he returned to the animal shelter for help — specifically, in hopes of finding someone to foster the dog until he got through his rough patch.

Gina Knepp, manager of Sacramento’s Front Street Animal Shelter, thought a video about Robert and Meaty, posted on its Facebook page, might lead to someone stepping forward.

“My name is Robert, I’m 47 years old, I have a family, a career, a master’s degree, a pet – and I’m homeless,” he says in the video, pausing frequently to compose himself.

“I came here in hopes I could find a foster family to care for Meaty until we get on our feet again and get into transitional housing …”

Knepp was so moved by his story — common a situation as it is — that she paid for three nights at a dog friendly motel after the video was made.

“Because few homeless shelters allow dogs, he’s been sleeping in his car with Meaty laying on his chest,” she said in the post. “He refused to take shelter, because he didn’t want Meaty to be cold and alone.”

“I think that pets are very important to homeless people,” Robert says in the video. “They’re their companion.”

Still, he had decided it would be best for everyone if they parted ways until housing was found, and in making the video he was hoping to find someone to care for the dog temporarily.

“I mean, who could resist a big lover like that?” he says as Meaty jumps up to give him kisses.

Within a week of the posting, Robert and Meaty were still together and the outlook was good. Amid an outpouring of support from the community, a rental home was found.

Homeless Charlotte man fights to keep dog

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Most homeless people push shopping carts. Alan Lord pushes a dog crate.

Inside that crate on wheels, more often than not, is Levi, his four year old Lab mix.

And that has led to some concerns among those who see them on the streets of Charlotte, and a controversy that the Charlotte Observer reports has pitted do-gooder against do-gooder.

Some dog lovers are urging the Mecklenburg County Animal Care and Control to take the dog, saying the dog spends too much time in the crate and that Lord has turned down most offers of help.

Lord, the animal control office and others say taking that action might be harsh and unfair, that Levi is virtually all Lord has since becoming homeless a year ago, and that while Lord probably could get into a homeless shelter, none in the city allow dogs.

lord2Lord, 43, is not willing to consider that last option.

He’s a former bank employee who lost his job, got divorced and lost his home — all recently — and separating from his 80 pound, 4-year-old dog is unacceptable to him.

“Levi – he’s all I have,” Lord told an Observer reporter last week as he sat in a Bojangles’ parking lot. “He’s my best friend and always will be.”

Ideally, he said, he’d like to move to Hawaii and live with his brother, but he hasn’t been able to pull that off. Lord admits his own back problems have limited the amount of tie Levi spends out of the crate.

Nevertheless, some dog advocates, several of whom have made efforts to help Lord, say the time has come to take his dog away.

“It’s an animal caught in the middle,” said Dina Castanas, who recently organized a community meeting where animal control officials heard from about 25 neighbors who want Levi out of the crate. “Levi has no voice and no choice in the matter.”

Terri McConnell and her husband estimate they have spent about $3,500 trying to help Lord and Levi — on hotel rooms, camping equipment and food.

“We didn’t mind. But then there comes a point where you’re like ‘We’re throwing good money after bad’ … He’s refusing help,” McConnell told the Observer. “The more paranoid he gets about someone trying to take that dog, the worse it’s getting.”

lord3Advocates for the homeless say Lord’s rights should be respected, that his refusal to separate from his dog isn’t unusual, and that — until a homeless shelter in Charlotte starts allowing pets — no one should be insisting that he go into one.

Josh Fisher, director of Animal Care and Control, says the dog is not being neglected or abused and doesn’t seem to be suffering — despite repeated complaints from citizens who say Levi is being kept too long in a too-small crate.

“Suffering is very much in the eyes of the beholder,” he said.

Fisher said his department’s officers have visited the dog almost daily in response to complaints. Levi is up-to-date on his vaccinations, in good health and has a good disposition, he said.

He said officials are working on a permanent housing solution that will allow Lord and Levi to stay together.

(Photos: Diedra Laird / Charlotte Observer)

Woof or roof: A dilemma for the homeless

When you’re homeless, you can run into a lot of Catch 22’s — those can’t-win situations that, even when you’re taking steps to improve your life, tend to make things appear even more hopeless.

Having a dog is a perfect example.

To a homeless person, having a dog (or, in the case of our Monday post, a cat) can have numerous benefits: Protection, for one. It can instill a greater will to survive and succeed. It can provide some self-esteem, emotional security, and companionship for sure — the kind that comes without judgment.

While some segments of society may be repulsed by the sight of you, your dog will always be thrilled.

But having a dog when you’re homeless can also be a tremendous obstacle — keeping you from being admitted to homeless shelters, finding the money to feed it, and making already problematic chores, like going to the bathroom, even more problematic.

Still, it’s not unusual that, when given a choice between shelter and their dog, the dog often comes first — as has been the case so far with a recently homeless woman and her boxer mix, named Cow, featured in a two-part series in the Toledo Blade this week.

“She is my whole world, my rock. I don’t know what I’d do without her.” 51-year-old Diann Wears said of her dog.

Wears, who in earlier stages of her troubled life worked as a prostitute and was addicted to crack, said it is her first time living on the streets.

wearsandcowShe says she left an abusive five-year relationship in July, and now she sleeps, with Cow, behind the Greyhound Bus station in downtown Toledo.

“It’s totally new to me and totally scary, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “But Cow and I, we have each other, and she gives me a lot of love and support.”

She says she tried to find an apartment that her Social Security and Supplemental Security Income would cover, but “they either turned me down because of Cow, or because I don’t make enough money.”

She has no intention of parting with Cow, she said.

Toledo’s homeless shelters — like most across the country — do not allow pets, and she was rejected, she said, by a YWCA shelter that provides haven for women fleeing domestic violence and their pets.

“They don’t think I’m in danger from my ex,” Wears said.

So Wears and Cow remain without shelter — unless you count the overhang of the bus station’s roof.

Having a dog, Wears noted, makes simple tasks, like attending a free meal, more difficult. She either has to leave Cow outside, leashed to her shopping cart, or find a friend she trusts enough to watch him.

Sometimes, she says, it’s hard to simply find a place in the shade to rest — without being told to leave, either because of the dog or because she is loitering.

She often sits on the grass at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where the pastor allows her to stay as long as neither she nor Cow causes any trouble, the Blade reported. (You can find part two of the series here.)

“We don’t bother anybody, but people judge us anyway because we’re homeless,” Diann said. “Or they’re afraid of Cow, even when she’s just lying there.”

Wears said Cow provides her some protection during the night.

Unsure as she is of the future, she is committed to two things — keeping Cow by her side and not going back to her abusive boyfriend.

“It’s hard out here, but I’m away from that at least I’ll take my chances out here. I have my dog and we’ll survive one way or the other, some kind of way.”

(Photo: The Toledo Blade)