Haven for Hope: Providing Hope for the Homeless and Their Pets
By Chris Coulter, Rescue Rebuild Program Manager
Today 3.5 million Americans are homeless, while five to ten percent of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country, the rate is as high as 24%. Sadly, the amount of pet-friendly homeless shelters is drastically lower than the amount of those requiring pet-friendly facilities.
GreaterGood.org’s Rescue Rebuild teamed up with The Jackson Galaxy’s Project Safe Haven Program to help alleviate this problem at Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas. Haven for Hope is already well aware of this situation and having a pet-friendly facility was one of the goals when they opened in 2010. They are already accepting those with pets, but they needed help updating their facilities. Their cat room was dark, cluttered and in need of repairs and updates.
First, we wanted to address the available space in their cat room. They had one wall filled with storage cabinets and a countertop with a sink and dishwasher underneath. Since these were in use daily, we didn’t want to remove them without moving them elsewhere. So, the best way to make more space was to relocate the sink and dishwasher to an adjoining room which was their isolation room. Once all the plumbing was run, and the sink and dishwasher installed in the isolation room, that wall was completely free, and the room was now a lot less cluttered.
Next, it was time to tackle the walls and give the paint brushes a workout. The walls were in pretty bad shape. Holes were patched and sanded smooth and primed. The original wall colors were very dark. We wanted to lighten it up and make it more fun and inviting. We decided to go with a color scheme that has become very popular. Bright white walls with one light teal accent wall.
Now to the fun part. Cat enrichment is always an exciting task. This is where the room finally starts to take shape. Like I had mentioned before, the room had limited floor space, so anything on the floor makes it seem even smaller and cluttered. Our solution was cat perches on the walls! This way cats still have enrichment but it doesn’t take up room. We added a new color to tie in with the bright white and light teal – bright orange. We added white, teal, and orange perches along three walls as well as two rope bridges that span the entire length of two double windows. These bridges became an instant success as now the cats can lay, sleep or play right next to windows allowing them to enjoy the Texas sun.
We felt there was still some enrichment to add to our new found space. So, we built a teal cat cubbie that cats can climb in and get away from the others if they desire as well as painted an existing cubbie the shelter already had. We added a new storage cabinet as well as fixed the existing cat kennels that they used to quarantine new kitties when they come to the shelter. Lastly, just to lend a helping hand we helped clean/organize their isolation room. Anything to assist these good people while we were there.
All these renovations do so much more than just look pretty. Of course, we wanted it to be aesthetically pleasing, but the brighter colors also help with the personality of the cats. Just like us if we are in a dark room for long periods of time, we begin to become depressed or melancholy. Brighter colors help cats be more happy and cheerful making their stay as pleasant as can be while also reducing illnesses and expensive vet bills. The enrichment on the walls helps give cats places to play or even a place to take a quick “cat nap” while not taking up floor space.
More floor space gives their owners more room to socialize with them. The biggest and most important benefit of this build was to make more room for more pets. With such a high number of homeless people with pets, we wanted to make sure that we could utilize the most out of the room that they had so that they could help more people in need. Pets are such a benefit while we are going through tough times. They can provide so much support without even saying a word.
We didn’t want someone to have to choose between their pet or a warm meal and a roof. With these renovations, they are now able to increase their intake and change the lives of many more! With the huge media coverage that was received, there is no doubt in my mind that other shelters will take note of this increasing issue and find ways tomake their shelter pet-friendly!