“They probably recognize the person as vulnerable, too, but the animal is doubly vulnerable because the standard narrative is, the dog didn’t choose to be homeless, which of course the human didn’t either,” Irvine said.
John Toth didn’t choose to be living on the streets of Philadelphia.
A probation violation landed him 90 days in jail, causing him to lose his apartment and his job, he said.
He’s been living on the streets for about two years.
She’s also heard horror stories of people checking their animals into pet shelters where they are later euthanized.
To get the shelter on its feet, Sena is partnering with Michele Schaffer-Stevens, who has for several years donated water bowls and roll-up dog beds to the homeless, and connected them to free spaying and neutering services.
Sena has about ,000 in hand and estimates she’ll need ,000 more.
A Go Fund Me page has brought in ,000 and a few potential investors are lined up.
Schaffer-Stevens’ rescue pit bull, Aladdin, is something of a big deal — he’s a public figure on Facebook with 20,000 followers, the American Humane Association’s therapy dog of the year, an ambassador dog for State Farm Insurance, sponsored by Tito’s Vodka.
“For the [homeless] people, the response has been ‘eh,’ but for the dogs, it turns out these are going to be the best-cared-for dogs in Philadelphia.” Sena, 38, a history professor at Villanova University, founded the Student-Run Emergency Housing Unit of Philadelphia, a network of eight universities whose students staff the shelter on Arch Street.
Over the years she has had to turn away dozens of people with pets, since animals aren’t allowed in the church.
“Whether people have a heart for young people experiencing homelessness, or senior citizens or people with animals, it’s all good,” she said.
“If it’s an access point to get involved in an issue, we’re grateful.” Nationally, it is estimated that about 10 percent of homeless people care for animals.