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Tag: homeless shelters

Homeless Charlotte man fights to keep dog

lord1

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)