The San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) Center has had a miraculous idea that will benefit the homeless from every angle; homeless dogs as well as homeless humans. What a remarkable plan this is indeed! If only every city were so proactive in their approach.
Due to this ongoing massive economic downturn, more and more homeless are showing up on city streets. There is some help in some cities, but even then odds are not in the homeless’ favor.
San Francisco actually has what is termed ‘supportive housing’ in their Tenderloin District. A few occupants are housed in the Empress Hotel. One such occupant, Matt Traywick, who suffers horribly from severe depression and tends to isolate himself, never leaving his room for days on end, had a friend that had other ideas in mind thankfully to help him through his plight.
The friend took Traywick to the San Francisco Animal Care and Control Center where he met and fell in love with Charlie, a little Bichon Frise, who just happened to have come in a mess, matted and starving. Matt saw beyond the mess and adopted Charlie and now he is able to get out of the Empress several times a day to take Charlie for a walk. Of course he is approached by others on the streets who simply love to see a cute dog! Charlie is much better off, too, because he is well cared for, fed and has his fluffy white fur back!
The idea sparked something in Bevan Dufty, San Fran Mayor Ed Lee’s point man regarding the homeless issues that California is having – especially in regards to panhandling. The city was embedded with the homeless trying to make some spare change just to survive.
The issue was deeper for the city government, however, since panhandling became an actual problem; the streets were deep with people begging for cash. City Hall got involved and has tried many approaches to get the situation under control; everything from making laws against aggressive panhandling, to teams hired to clear the streets, to creating an employment program at nearby businesses. Now they are pulling out the big guns – puppies!
Dufty’s new homeless incentive plan entitled Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos (cleverly thought out as the acronym ‘WOOF’) is fashioned after Matt’s success with Charlie. Beginning this August, WOOF will take to the streets as a one-of-a-kind (so far anyway!) program that will enrich the lives for both homeless dogs and homeless people. The lucky individuals in the program will actually get paid anywhere from $50 to $75 per week to take care of problematic puppies for the San Francisco Animal Care and Control Center. The people will help the Center ready these puppies for their forever homes. So far Matt is being helped tremendously with his depression issue by Charlie.
This program seems to be an ideal solution for two very real situations! Of course applicants for WOOF will be screened by the Animal Care and Control to verify if they would be a good fit with the program. One of the stipulations for the program is that the individuals must already be living in supportive housing and not actually living on the streets as this is why the dogs were rescued in the first place; the program does not want to lend the animals back to being homeless.
The balance of the stipulations include that the individuals are not severely mentally ill, do not hoard or have a history of violence and in assistance programs if they do have addictions of any sort. The final stipulation is that the individual pledges not to panhandle anymore and if they do happen to be caught in the act with the puppy, they will lose their privileges and the animal will be returned to the shelter.
Besides the cash they will receive, they will also be able to attend training at the SFACC with their animal behavior specialist; checking in regularly. In return they will receive all the dog food, toys, leashes and vet care that the dog could possibly need.
How is this all being funded in times that are so economically straining? SFACC received a $10,000 grant from Vanessa Getty to get the program started. Once startup begins, Dufty will be seeking more philanthropic donations to keep the program going.
Hopefully WOOF will be spectacularly successful – for all parties involved: The City of San Francisco, SFACC, the homeless people as well as the homeless dogs. This proactive program could possibly be a forerunner for this entire nation. Can’t wait to hear the results!