Helping California’s Homeless Humans And Their Pets

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Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home. — Front Street Animal Shelter Manager Gina Knepp

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

In the interest of full disclosure and at considerable risk of alienating some of you, there’s something I must confess. I am an East Coast girl, born and bred (sort of). So I love New York… and by New York, I mean New York City. I also hate California. Passionately.

Yes, I’ve been there. In fact I’ve been there several times. And as far as I’m concerned, its only redeeming feature is (some of) its residential architecture. Apart from that, the less said the better…

Bill addresses Golden State homelessness

Putting my personal feelings aside, I was intrigued when I recently came across an article about proposed legislation that takes an interesting approach to addressing homelessness in California.

As reported on, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg introduced the bill that would allow shelters throughout the Golden State more inviting to the homeless by accommodating their pets, too.

The details are also available on Hertzberg’s website, where he explains that only six out of 46 shelters serving the Los Angeles area allow homeless people to bring their pets. Hertzberg hopes his measure will help to change that by allocating $5,000,000 in grants to homeless shelters that provide shelter, food, and basic veterinary services to the pets of people experiencing homelessness.

“The act of opening up shelters to pets may seem simple, but it will have a huge impact on the goal of reducing the number of individuals who are sleeping on the streets,” Hertzberg said. “Providing these resources for shelters is just one small way we can make a dent in this incredible issue facing our state, while also improving the lives of our most vulnerable.”

California: a state in crisis

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development once again issued its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress. In it, the agency’s Office Of Community Planning And Development shared data detailing the extent of homelessness throughout the country.

In this context, the agency also revealed the true scope of California’s homeless crisis in 2018. Specifically, it indicated that there approximately 130,000 homeless people could be found there on any given night. Perhaps even more alarmingly, the report noted that 69 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the Golden State were found in “unsheltered locations.”

Given that, Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and CEO of LA Family Housing said Hertzberg’s proposal makes sense.

“As a service provider, we often find that people experiencing homelessness will refuse Bridge Housing if it means leaving their support animal behind,” she said. “Allowing support animals onsite eliminates that barrier, allowing us to keep the unit together, and move more people off of the streets.”

Front Street Animal Shelter — bridging the gap

Given the debate over whether homeless people should even be allowed or encouraged to have pets, there’s no guarantee that Hertzberg’s colleagues will support the measure. And there’s no guarantee that the governor will ink it if they do.

So for now, some people are taking the matter into their own hands. Take the situation in Sacramento, where there is a lack of consistency regarding pet policies at the county’s shelters. In the capital, Front Street Animal Shelter has intervened and uses its own funds to  provide “everything from kenneling and microchipping to food and leash donations for the pets of individuals in shelters.”

As far as Front Street Animal Shelter Manager Gina Knepp is concerned, if the shelter can do its part, state lawmakers follow suit.

“It is imperative that funding be included for the animal component if we are ever to solve the homeless crisis,” she said. “Pets are family, the human animal bond is not diminished whether living on the streets or living in a home. Failure to appropriately give consideration to this aspect of the crisis would be a travesty. The positive impact on the lives of pet owners experiencing homelessness would exponentially rise should we do what is most humane and humanitarian for both ends of the leash.”

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Why or why not? Let’s talk about it. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or cast your vote here.

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