But somewhere amid the free manpower, word of mouth, good wishes and donations (which Grove said are always in demand) lies a deeper question about the animals’ welfare. The Alpha Project, a San Diego human services organization that has operated the Good facility for nearly 18 years, says that the homeless will often assume ownership of abandoned animals. How can the homeless care for their pets if they haven’t enough for themselves?
“The bottom line,” Grove told San Diego Pets, “is that these creatures mean more than anything to them. The owners aren’t in the best [circumstance], but their pets are really well cared for. We need very little medicine, because the owners will do whatever they can to care for the animals.
“There’ll be a puppy sitting on a guy’s shoulder,” the 12-year San Diego resident continued, “and he won’t move while I’m treating him; he stays calm and stays with the owner. And the cats, same thing. They sit there in their owners’ arms, because they’re so loyal. My cat would run away.”
Figures from the local Regional Task Force on the Homeless reflect that as of late April this year, nearly 10,000 homeless reside in San Diego County. The majority moves to San Diego in search of services, congregating in East Village near facilities like the Good center, which has showers and restrooms.
Caring for the animals, Grove said, empowers their owners, whose situations aren’t necessarily all their own creation. There are many forces at work in their lives, she asserted, with their pets grounding them in their search for new directions.
“I know some people say why should they have animals
when they can’t care for them,” Grove said, “but you know what? Honestly, I could be homeless tomorrow. Anyone could be homeless. All I can say is that these pets are really important to them. If they’re not, that’s a different issue.”
Meanwhile, Grove concluded, “That pet doesn’t know it doesn’t have a home. It knows it has an owner with a big heart.”
The Neil Good Day Center is located at 299 17th St.
For more information on Alpha Project and Grove’s work, see alphaproject.org. For more about Vet2You, see sandiegvet2you.com.