Miami's Camillus House and it's pet project: caring for homeless people's pets
Miami’s forward-thinking Camillus House (an organization with a mission to help all homeless men and women find their way off the streets) is having trouble with one of its newest ventures. It has proposed offering kennel facilities to homeless citizens’ pets—and some South Floridians see this as a less-than-PR-worthy misstep.
To some extent, I agree. The concept of a kennel in a homeless shelter sends shivers down this pragmatist’s spine. How better to spread disease among less-than-healthy pets than by housing them in close quarters while their caretakers get a couple of much-needed meals and a safe night’s sleep?
However, the idealist me is thrilled at the prospect of offering care to all homeless people—not just the ones who happen to eschew pets. It seems almost fundamental to the mission of a homeless shelter that it make its services available to every at-risk human. Yet when pets are in tow, homeless individuals are inevitably turned back by almost every shelter in the nation.
Indeed, how can you possibly get help for your calamitous condition when the only stable relationship in your life renders you ineligible for treatment? It’s a Catch-22 I’m eager to see undone by the likes of the progressive thinkers at Camillus House.
Not only is a pet program much-needed by the Miami homeless (here, a high percentage live symbiotically with their pets), it’s also a great opportunity to minister to the needs of the pets themselves. (There I go, always thinking like a vet.) After all, these animals have likely never felt the sharp side of a needle, tasted the sickly sweetness of a dewormer or experienced the simple pleasure of a flea and tick treatment.
Though I must admit that whenever I’ve had the opportunity to lend a hand to a homeless person’s pet, I’ve been rudely treated and nearly bitten. But that goes with the territory. (Who would you want sleeping beside you at night under an inner city overpass?)
I have no illusions about Camillus House’s proposed pet program. It would doubtless be difficult to administrate and one would almost have to think Quixotically to take on its execution. But if programs for the human homeless are to be effective in our communities at large, the very human reality of their pets can’t be disregarded. Kudos to Camillus House.