BELLINGHAM, Wash. – If you have a pet you know how expensive it can be to take care of their medical expenses, but what happens if you can’t afford to take care of yourself, let alone your best friend?
If you have ever adopted a dog, you know sometimes it can be hard to know who rescued who.
But if you’re homeless and have lost nearly everything – sometimes having a companion like a dog is the only thread keeping you alive.
Thanks to the non-profit organization called Pets of the Homeless, those who are least likely to be able to afford pet food or veterinary care can get that kind of help for free.
In most cases, homeless shelters don’t allow pets but the people running the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham believes allowing animals inside is a way to reach a new client.
“We’ve seen so many people come in that wouldn’t have come in before because their pets weren’t allowed before,” said Hans Erchinger-Davis.
The mission already serves nearly hundreds of homeless people with meals, beds, services and much more.
Plus, when they find a client with a pet who needs help, they also work with Pets of the Homeless. The organization told Q13 News it has spent more than $1million since 2008 paying for food, medical expenses and more.
“You want to make it as easy as possible to get them into the door to start engaging services,” said Erchinger-Davis.
“If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t know what to do,” said Terry Bell who owns a pet and sleeps in a local shelter.
“A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to be homeless with a dog,” Chili Hansman said.
Chili says he recently kicked his addiction to booze and along with his 2-year-old dog named Baby Girl, he sees a bright future.
“She deserves better than living under a bridge,” he said.
And while taking care of a pet’s needs might sound secondary compared to the needs of someone who doesn’t even have a home.
Erchinger-Davis believes if the mission can reach more clients with help from Pets of the Homeless, then maybe that animal owner can also see a future where they are just as important as their pets.
“When you have that feeling of safety and connection, that’s when people start their journey towards health,” he said.