by Debra Reeves
I am a volunteer with Buddy Nation, a registered non-profit organization in Ventura whose mission is to work with the county’s homeless people and their pets. Our goal is to give practical help to those who need it – both 2 and 4 footed. We provide pet food and bedding, spaying/neutering, vaccinations and licenses, microchipping, veterinary services – both routine and emergency and specialized.
To accomplish this we collaborate with S.P.A.N. (Spay/Neuter Animal Network), the Ventura County Animal Services, C.A.R.L. (Canine Animal Rescue League), The Humane Society, S.P.A.R.C. (Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center), Ventura Avenue Luxury Boarding and our local veterinarians.
We work with churches and hospitals and hospice to help get people back on their feet and back into regular lives. We have had wonderful success stories: a young woman was hospitalized for 9 days with a serious illness. While she was in the hospital, the kennel kept her Pit Bull safe and loved – at no expense. The woman and her beloved dog are now re-united in another state with her family and doing well. All she needed was someone to help her back on her feet. We did that, with the help of our aforementioned friends.
Our experience from being on the streets, at the river bottom, at cars, vans, trucks is that most of the homeless people are folks who are down on their luck and trying to get back on their feet. They are middle class, middle aged, are not crazy, drunks or junkies. They have lost jobs, fallen behind on house payments, had catastrophic medical bills that have wiped them out. They don’t want to be living on the streets, in their cars or vans but ended up there.
Sure, there are the people who drink or use drugs. Sure, there are the wild and crazy ones … but that is not the face of homelessness here. The people we work with want to get back to normal lives – they want housing, food on the table, safety and security. They want to be warm at night, and they want their beloved pets with them.
We have had people die and we do what we can to help make this final transition easier – even if it means pulling someone out of the river bottom and booking him into a high-end motel until his hospice bed became available. The person I’m referring to did pass away, but he knew that people cared for him at the end, and that his little dog is in a loving home (mine) .
Buddy Nation does what we do to give dignity back to people who have been reduced to none.
We all must remember that any of us could become homeless, given the right circumstances. Think about this the next time you see a homeless person – and smile and say hello – and be , it’s not you.