Homeless Can House Their Dogs In San Francisco’s New Shelters

In most cities throughout the U.S., there have been two distinct type of homeless shelters — those for pet owners and those for their dogs. Most traditional shelters will not allow 'man and beast' to reside together. For those who choose not to be separated from their 'best friends — many are forced to consider the less desirable accommodations of tent encampments.

However that paradigm is in the process of changing.

Navigation Centers

To overcome this challenge, San Francisco is breaking the mold with a hybrid form of housing called ‘navigation centers.’

Former homeless czar Bevan Dufty helped create the city’s first navigation center in 2015. These accommodations are predicated on breaking down the barriers of the three P’s: “partners, possessions and pets.” Up till now, these were the primary hurdles that prohibited the homeless from being able to stay at traditional city shelters.

“Pets offer companionship, emotional support, protection, a focus for every day,” said Dufty. “Overwhelmingly, I have found that people that are homeless take better care of their animals than they do of themselves.”

Supporting that claim, an assessment of San Francisco’s Mission District navigation center showed within the first six months that 20 percent of street people arrived with one or more pets.

Traditional Shelters v. Navigation Centers

Traditional shelters will accept pets only if they are documented as a service or companion animal, whereas navigation centers accept pets regardless of their documentation, according to Randolph Quezada, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

“We want to create as low a barrier and entry point as possible,” said Quezada.

The process of obtaining documentation for traditional shelters is a daunting challenge noted one homeless person: “I qualify for [a service companion] but it’s hard to get one because I don’t have an address and the actual forms that say, ‘Yeah, I do have epilepsy,’” noted one homeless person when interviewed recently. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, but it’s too confusing. There’s too many obstacles you have to jump over.”

Dogpatch & more to come . . .

One of the most recent navigation centers to open [aptly named ‘Dogpatch,’] is run and managed like the others — by the Episcopal Community Services. For those who remember, this area of town was also the fictional setting of cartoonist Al Capp's classic comic strip, Li'l Abner (1934–1977).

Mayor Ed Lee celebrated the openings of the new Dogpatch Navigation Center by announcing plans to increase funding and more beds for residents experiencing homelessness as part of his proposed budget. With the opening of this new center and more in the pipeline, the number of beds at navigation centers will increase by nearly 150 percent by the end of the next fiscal year. The Dogpatch Navigation Center will have 64 beds available for people experiencing chronic homelessness who were previously living in encampments.

The Moral

The moral to this story is a primary tenant of humanity. By allowing the homeless to continue to live with their animals, even in dire situations is beneficial, both physically and spiritually.

“It has been proven medically that owning a pet is beneficial both physically and mentally,” noted one navigation center official.

“That dog doesn’t care if they are in a house, in a tent or in a car. They just want to be with their human.” The unconditional love of a dog has value beyond any material goods or riches man can acquire in their life times. Hats off to those who have developed a means for the homeless to continue live with dignity — with their best friends.

Primary Source: Navigation Centers