New L.A. Dog Park Offers Respite To Homeless Residents’ Pets
In Los Angeles, California, there are nearly 53,000 homeless people. Many of these residents have pets, often their lifelines and only companions, and they are not willing to part with their pets just to have safety and shelter.
Now, a new dog park at the Weingart Center in L.A. hopes to help homeless citizens not have to worry about their pets while they make efforts to get their lives back on track.
Genevieve Frederick is the founder of Pets of the Homeless, which is a non-profit in Los Angeles. She said that too often, the homeless have lost everything and are just unwilling to give up their pets–pets who provide unconditional love and protection–just to get off the streets. Many will go without food or care for themselves to give the best they can to their faithful furry friends.
Asking them to give up their pets in exchange for shelter, as many shelters won’t accept pets, is simply not acceptable, she says.
Two years ago, L.A. Animal Services joined the Inner City Law Center to open a weekly pet resource center in the heart of ‘skid row.’ The center gave free pet food, supplies and other resources, including veterinary care to the pets of the homeless, as they recognized the great need to help L.A. citizens and their pets.
Mayor Eric Garcetti says that he wants pets to be accepted in the citywide shelter expansion plan he has and some big shelters have realized that they can do more for the homeless if they relax or get rid of their bans on pets.
The Weingart Center is a shelter that offers comprehensive services to the homeless men and women of skid row. Tonja Boykin is the chief operating officer for the center and says that they want to help as many as they can, but recognize that many homeless people will stay on the streets longer if they cannot find options for transitional living that will allow their pets.
The dog park now offers residents of The Weingart Center options for their dogs while they work to transition and build better lives. Residents of the center say that shelter life even with a pet can be lonely, and the park’s amenities and bright and inviting decor helps give them some respite when the days are long, hot and lonely.
Additionally, residents are thrilled they can be at the center with their pets and get their pets the socialization and exercise they want them to have. The park will also offer obedience classes and resources that include food and veterinary care.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Grant also gave four other L.A. agencies funds to buy kennels and pet supplies for companion animals of the homeless citizens they serve. The grant also funded trainers and shelter modifications for residents and their pets.
Boykin says that while residents, efforts to help them learn how to care for their pets off the streets as they transition into permanent housing. She says that she wants to be sure that the residents care appropriately for their pets so that in permanent housing, they are not thrown out by landlords for their poor pet-keeping skills.
What a novel concept–helping those with pets to help themselves and their pets. Here’s hoping that idea continues to catch on!
More by Lori Ennis