Riverside, CA – When a homeless person enters a shelter many cannot bring their pets with them. Experts say that homeless shelters that have a kennel are rare. The Homeless are very attached to their pets. In Riverside, homeless outreach specialist Roman Aguilar said “the people he encounters on the job take good care of their animal companions and will forgo their own meals to feed a pet.” Fortunately in Riverside, as of Thursday, a kennel at the homeless shelter now exists.
There are very few facilities in the country that offer the Homeless the ability to bring their pets along. The emergency shelter in Riverside on Hulen Place is part of a much larger facility that includes a 400-square-foot kennel that houses 18 cages for dogs and cats. The kennel was built with federal grant money, donated labor and materials at a cost of less than $50,000. The Kennel is also eco-friendly using recycled denim insulation, solar panels and a rain-water recapture system.
The riverside kennel is also inexpensive to operate. “It won’t cost the city anything to operate the kennel, said Eva Yakutis, Housing and Neighborhoods Manager, because it will be staffed by volunteers with support from Riverside County Animal Services. And people who stay at the shelter will care for their own pets.”
Christina Guzman is homeless and loves Roger her brown and white Chihuahua-terrier mix. Guzman said “she sometimes has opted to stay on the streets instead of going to a shelter where dogs aren’t allowed.” Now thanks to the new kennel in Riverside, she’ll no longer have to make that choice.
Not everyone is thrilled with homeless people owning pets and some like Powel, who has been staying at the shelter, feel that the efforts to help those that do is misplaced. “I was raised on a ranch in Montana. To me, an animal is a tool and if you can’t feed and take care of them, you shouldn’t have them,” said Powell, who has been homeless for four months since losing his job.
Most however seem to be excited about the addition of the new kennel. Donovan, with the Homeless Coalition, said “the kennel provides an important service. Instead of making that hard decision to give away or give to an animal shelter your pet, this is a great alternative. I think it really speaks to the changing face of homelessness, and to some degree it also says that you’re looking at the individual less in a blaming way and more as someone who has found themselves in a certain condition.”
Guzman said, “People on the street who have pets may also be more likely to come to the shelter if they know animals are welcome. They’re not going to neglect their pets. It’s like children to us.”