Another Homeless Person and Pet in San Francisco

June 1, 2016

For years now, the political pundits in San Francisco have been discussing the City’s homeless problem. We’ve all heard Mayors Brown, Newsom and Lee promise to address the situation, and while the language describing the problem has changed and the amount of money spent to solve the problem increased, the problem remains as bad as (or worse than) ever.   Frankly, I’ve listened to some of those conversations at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and City Hall and watched the political compromises that politicians and developers devise as partial solutions (or at least things that let them claim partial solutions).  Like every San Franciscan I have long had to deal with the homeless on the streets but for the first time we have been forced to deal with homelessness in the Pet Camp lobby.

Pet Camp is very fortunate to have been in business for almost 20 years.  In addition to seeing tens of thousands of dogs and cats cross our threshold for doggie day care or lodging; we’ve also seen the dot.com boom and bust, the Great Recession, and now dot.com 2.0. We have had clients who have moved to San Francisco to take advantage of all the City has to offer, and lost clients when they have been transferred to Minnesota or North Carolina (depending on which big bank they worked for). Some clients have moved when the dot.com company they worked for failed to get its fifth round of funding or left the City when they had children and couldn’t risk the San Francisco Unified School District lottery for elementary school. But for the first time we’ve lost a long time client because she lost her job, then her home, and sadly now lost her dog as well.

Now I know that this is not the first time a long time working middle class citizen of San Francisco has fallen on hard times. I also know that people have a responsibility to advocate for themselves and use the resources this most affluent of Cities has made available. While caring for this client’s dog for three months (for which we didn’t get paid – but that is a much less important part of the story) we reached out to the San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC), San Francisco SPCA, and HOPE SF. Both SFACC and SPCA were very upfront: there was nothing they could do to help this client. This of course begs the question of why these organizations have funds to rehome pets but no funds to keep pets in their original home.  We understand that how these groups could help avoid pets from becoming homeless rather than simply assist in rehoming them once homeless is a complicated, complex, and potentially expensive question – but that does not mean that we should not be asking it.  HOPE SF was more positive and asked that we have this client meet with them to discuss options. We passed all this information to the client. Frankly, we can’t say with certainty that the client took it upon herself to actually meet with HOPE SF, but we can say with certainty the end result.

Last week, after the client had stopped checking in with us for about three weeks, and after reaching out to the client innumerable times and not getting a return call, we made the heart-wrenching decision that we needed to rehome the client’s pet. Continuing to simply provide long term boarding at Pet Camp was no longer options. The dog is now with a foster parent, so we are confident that the dog is safe, housed and loved. We wish we were nearly as confident about how our client is doing and about the efforts San Francisco is making to address this problem.

So, what solutions are out there to avoid more of San Francisco’s pets from becoming homeless? Is this an area where San Francisco should be spending more money?

Thanks for reading.

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