Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"About to be Homeless"

On Sept 11, an email landed in our mailbox with the headline, 'About to be Homeless.' 

"To whom it may concern.
I have a pitbull that is very important to me and in need of a muzzle.  I am about to be homeless (living in my car) and i need a muzzle for my pitbull (do not want to give him up) so i can safely tackle homelessness with him.
Please call me i will give my time to  help in any way i can just call me so i can keep my dog Rocco see attached photo." - Carol

I phoned: What's going on? Why a muzzle? Carol, her husband, two sons and their two dogs were being evicted due to a landlord move-in and finding a new rental that would accept their pets was proving to be next to impossible. Rather than surrender their dogs (a 16 year old dog and seven year old Rocco) to the shelter where both may perish, they've made the decision to live in their car until they can find a new dog friendly apartment. Living in a car is damn difficult for a myriad of reasons but Carol was certain her dog 'Rocco' would have the hardest time of all. Rocco had never been around strange dogs much and when he had, his experiences weren't good. Carol told me that in their former home - a rough neighborhood in Pittsburg, CA - he was routinely aggravated by dogs and people who provoked him through their shoddy fence for the fun of setting him off. Carol was certain that, once on the streets, Rocco would have a similar experience that would result in animal control taking him away from them.  
She had a point. Homeless pet owners are more likely to be cited following complaints filed by people who assume the animals are being abused or neglected. A larger dog with reactivity issues would easily draw all kinds of negative attention, especially while he was alone in the car and they were away at work delivering newspapers.

I asked Carol if she could bring Rocco to class so we could sort out his needs and hopefully come up with a game plan that didn't require a muzzle. As it turns out, Rocco was so horribly nervous outside of his home and in the presence of other dogs, he sat wide eyed and stressed, his thighs shaking like a leaf. With some practice, he's calmed quite a bit and has learned to look to his people for information and comfort. Carol and Peter have since come to every class, and as Rocco's confidence around strange dogs grows, so does their confidence in their ability to navigate him in difficult situations.

Dog management plan - handled. But the next real problem was much bigger and harder to solve. The National Coalition for the Homeless estimates that 3.5 million people in American are homeless and between 5%-10% have dogs or cats. In some parts of the country, the rate may be as high as 24%. For many, the situation is temporary while they search for new housing, but for those with larger dogs, including pit bull type dogs, the search becomes excruciatingly difficult. Carol and her family face what could be weeks or months before they land the security of a dog friendly lease in an area near their jobs. In the meantime, they would be exposed to crime, police harassment, bad weather and illness, personal hygiene challenges and the general wear and tear that comes from the stress of being homeless. Despite all that, they are still 100% determined to keep their dogs.

For more info on the realities of the mobile homeless. New York Times: Keeping It Secret as the Family Car Becomes a Home.

What to do? We can work with dog reactivity issues, but impending homelessness of an entire family? Enter social media and the kindness of strangers. With their move out date just days away, we posted a plea on BADRAP's facebook page, not really knowing how people would respond. 

Peter and Carol have raised Rocco (age 7) since he was born. They're grandparents and live with two grown sons and a second dog who is 16 years old. Tonight, due to a landlord move-in, they'll be joining over 634K people in this country who are homeless. Hard times everywhere have been especially difficult for families with blockheads. Peter and Carol refuse to give up their dogs and plan to sleep in their car with both until they save up enough to get a dog friendly apartment.
The trouble is, their dogs will be on their own while they work delivering newspapers and they know this isn't safe. They are currently looking for a place in Contra Costa County to keep their dogs for up to six hours at a time while they work. A safe yard, a garage, etc. Can you help?
While they look, they're attending BR's Pit Ed classes to help give worrier Rocco enough confidence to deal with the unknowns of homeless living. Did we mention how much they love their dogs?
Any leads for a safe place to keep Rocco and his senior pal during the day are VERY much appreciated. They hope to find a dog friendly apartment before the winter rains start, so any leads for rentals in Contra Costa County would be fantastic too.
Please share, contact us with any ideas, and send some warm wishes their way. THANK YOU! 

The post was seen by nearly 68K people and shared 850 times. From it, a big hearted couple - recent BR adopters Jill and Scott Borchardt - offered up a space in their yard to hold the dogs while the family was at work, and two others - Loran Watkins and Christine Tanner - donated a dog kennel to secure them safely. Next, the community of dog lovers on facebook donated enough to rent a hotel room for one, possibly two months while the search is on for a new home that will allow all of them.

We hope it's a quick search. We know they won't be the only families hoping and praying for a rental that will accept their dogs this year.

Wednesday Oct 16 Update: Finding a safe, affordable hotel for the interim is easier said then done. Costs can quickly exceed $2500 a month - A chunk that could be used for a security deposit for an apartment instead. The Homeless Program of Contra Costa Health Services lost their funding for hotel vouchers last year, so homeless families in our area can easily get caught in the Catch 22 of using every penny they have on a very temporary housing solution. Pet owners are then doubly challenged by hotel restrictions that ban pets. Some good news: Carol and Peter have jobs, so are eligible for a grant from a local homeless service to pay their first month's rent once they locate an apartment that will take their dogs. They are deeply grateful for the funds raised from BR's facebook community to help them during this time of crisis and are currently debating the best way to use them secure a roof over their heads. We'll report back as their difficult and all too common story unfolds.

Carol and Peter can afford up to $1200 a month in rent. Please send any leads for dog friendly housing in Contra Costa County, CA and we'll forward.  We are always forwarding donations to help them with hotel fees during this time. Please designate that your gift is for Carol and Peter. BR Donation Page 


Susan said...

Well, what wonderful people. I am praying a solution comes fast. Bless them, their pets AND Bad Rap!

kgt said...

this is all too common especially in the bay area..looking for caretaking some place semi rural in contra costa might be a good idea. they have a big group. hope their sons have a way to work or live. kgt

Unknown said...

May God bless this couple in their search to keep their "family" together. I will and I ask you to pray for God's will to prevail in this couples life. Please keep us posted on their situation.

Anonymous said...

I know a place in San Jose only. What about Oakland - its not too, too far and a lot of cheaper options

Anonymous said...

Craigslist link. 2bd 1 bd. $995 and accepts dogs. in Antioch (Contra Costa County)

snoopysld said...

hi found this place and it allows dogs 3bdrm 2bath

Lisa H said...

It makes walking tough, but I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed in the hope Peter and Carol and their family find a good, safe place to live... Soon!

Lisa said...

Is there any news about Peter and Carol and family?