The Blog

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Why should you do something if you can only do a little?

So many of the problems we face seem insurmountable. People become convinced that the choices they make and the actions that they can take as individuals won’t have any meaningful impact. I don’t believe that that is true for any of the world’s problems that we face and I can prove that is not true for shelter animals or homeless youth.

Let’s assume that you have your own family, a job, a home to take care of and feel that you do not have any extra time to volunteer in an animal shelter or take responsibility for the guidance of a homeless young person. With the limited time you have, is there still something you can give that would make an impact? You bet there is and here are some ideas to get you thinking.

For the animals, how about you try one of these

1.  Foster kittens. Kittens are short-term fosters, are easy to adopt out and most need a home for just a few weeks until they’re big enough to be spayed or neutered. You can work with a shelter or rescue that will take you take them from you and place them for adoption in a retail location and your job is done. Fosters directly and immediately save lives.

2.  If bringing kittens into your home is too much, how about doing a linen drive among your family and friends or at your workplace? You will directly impact the quality of life of an animal waiting in a shelter who would otherwise be sleeping on a tile floor or newspaper in a cage. It only takes one trip to drop them off and you’re done.

3.  You can be an advocate. Speak up to your friends who are considering going to a breeder or buying an animal on the Internet.  Tell them that they are unknowingly supporting keeping the parents of those puppies in cages with no access to the outdoors, no human contact and often without necessary vet care. Be nice, be firm, do your research and offer them options.

For at risk youth,

1. Can you become a remote mentor? Partner with a young person who needs guidance. Check in with each other by phone or email once or twice a week. You can help keep them on track and let them know that someone cares about what happens to them.

2. What about an evening of service with a few friends? Service is easier in pairs or groups. Do you know how to do anything that one of your parents taught you that you could pass on to a young person? A craft? How to cook a great dish for a crowd? Young people living in a shelter would love to spend an evening having a caring adult pass along some family wisdom. You pick the night. Everybody can give one evening.

3. Have a drive to collect professional clothing so that young people have something appropriate to wear for interviews. Strive for a variety of sizes with everything in good condition – something you would wear yourself. More than once, we have witnessed our young volunteers wearing shoes that are too big and pants that cover their feet because the shelter did not have a sufficient selection of interview appropriate clothes for them.

Do not let yourself sink into the belief that what you do does not make a difference. Remind yourself that, if everyone did just one thing, the world would be a happier and more comfortable place for everyone.

The Parallels Between Homeless Youth and Homeless Animals

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Our original rationale for pairing homeless teenagers with shelter animals was our founder’s observation that many young people living on the streets and under bridges had pets with them. Witnessing the strength of that bond, there was obvious potential to reach these young people through their love of animals and, at the same time, help chronically understaffed animal shelters through bringing in these young people as volunteers.

But the bond goes beyond young people’s love of animals.  There is a kinship between the two groups that we continue to learn about every day. In doing our work over the past five years, we have grown to see many parallels between the life experiences of the young people and the homeless animals we serve; similarities in how they arrived at their current situation in life and in how that makes them feel.  The same collection of reasons that lead to youth homelessness also send millions of animals to shelters each year.  For example, some of the young people end up homeless having fled an abusive home, choosing the uncertainty of the streets over the known danger of home. Others arrive at the shelter after a lifetime of more “benign” neglect or after the adults responsible for their care have disappeared from their lives to jail, drugs, another family or the unknown. In other cases, their families didn’t abuse them but were just ill equipped to provide them with the support, financial and personal, that they needed.

In the case of animals, the reasons for homelessness run a similar spectrum. Many of their guardians reluctantly gave them up, having no choice because of an inability to obtain pet friendly housing (or housing at all) or inability to afford their care, particularly veterinary care which is beyond the means of a significant percentage of people.   In other cases, the animals were seized from cruel owners who abused them, fought them or worse. Others were actively neglected through their guardians’ failure to provide adequate food, shelter or medical care.  Indeed, most of the animals in shelters end up there through the kind of passive neglect that leaves so many kids out on their own before they are ready. The adults that were responsible for both the kids and the animals were not sufficiently committed to their care to stick it out when things got tough,

Because of our work connecting these two groups., we are privileged on a regular basis to see that “I am not alone” light bulb go off in a young person’s eyes when looking into the eyes of a homeless animal. Even if before that moment, they may have felt that they had little value and nothing to offer, they clearly don’t feel that way about the dog they are playing with and they often make the connection that their lives also have value and that they too can bring another living being happiness and companionship. And, that, my friends, is the essence of Hand2Paw.

Therapeutic-Experiences

 

 

A 2 for 1 Program Close to Hand2Paw’s Heart

For those of you who appreciate Hand2Paw’s mission of putting two problems together to create a solution for both, you may enjoy reading about this new program with similar goals. San Francisco has come up with a unique two for one solution to address both panhandling on the streets and increasing numbers of animals being turned into its shelters as a result of the recession.  With government backing,  WOOF, Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, will pair residents in supportive housing who agree not to panhandle with adolescent puppies from shelters who are in need of more socialization in order to be permanently adopted.  The program also provides participants with weekly payments for fostering the puppies along with training in both animal care and job skills.

“We think it will be absolutely magic to give these individuals and these dogs a second chance together,” says Mayor Ed Lee’s point person on homelessness.  We at Hand2Paw could not agree more!