For homeless pet owners, extra challenges to finding shelter in the cold
As Montreal’s temperatures sank to near-record lows over the past week, the city’s homeless sought refuge in homeless shelters. But for those with furry companions, finding a warm place hasn’t been easy.
Greg Jones and his dog Nero have been living on the street for the past year. A local group called Velvet Hearts recently gave Nero a coat and booties to help him keep warm in the winter.
“This is like the Cadillac of winter coats,” said Jones. “I can’t believe it was free.”
For Jones, it’s been hard to find places that are both warm and safe that also welcome Nero. Most homeless shelter in the city don’t allow dogs.
“At night, I’ve found places that are more less public places, where if you drink a coffee, you can stay there for an hour or two,” said Jones.
On Tuesday, Jones was at the Open Door, one of a handful of drop-in centres where dogs can come in during the day.
“When it comes to homeless people that happen to have dogs or cats, (many are) people that choose to be homeless simply because they can’t find a low-income rental that allows animals,” said Velvet Hearts co-founder Sabrina Sabbah.
Sabbah started Velvet Hearts after launching a kindness challenge online, asking people to donate items to the homeless and their pets.
The Montreal SPCA provides animal boots and coats to the homeless on a case-by-case basis, but spokesperson Alanna Devine said they want to see affordable housing solutions.
“They need to be able to get inside with their guardians during times of extreme cold and hopefully, the long term solution is to find places for them to live with their guardians and not have to be out on the streets,” she said.
Jones said he has found it impossible to find an apartment and won’t consider giving up Nero.
“My circumstances that led me here to the street was, as they say, a final stumbling, bumbling… basically losing everything you’ve got,” he said. “He was the only thing I had left.”