Four days sick and off work cost Steve (who asked that we not use his full name) his room in a weekly motel. For a while he lived in his car with his pets. When the car broke down, he sold it and landed at the City of Las Vegas’s Homeless Courtyard, where he’s been since the summer. The outdoor facility, where clients sleep on the ground, is the only ‘shelter’ where man and his best friend are welcome, as long as a kennel is open.
“This situation isn’t forever. I’ll be in a place within a month,” he said during an interview.
Steve says he’s been asked before why he doesn’t rehome his pets instead of keeping them in his car, or at the Courtyard.
“I’d rather be dead than without them,” he says. “I have no family. They are all I have.”
At times he’s gone without eating. “My pets always have food. I’ve stolen from CVS before. For all of us. I can’t let them go hungry.”
“Some people might think if you’re in financial crisis, why in the world would this also be a situation, but pets are part of their family,” says Marlene Richter, executive director of Noah’s Animal House, which houses pets for clients of Shade Tree, a shelter primarily for women and children victimized by domestic abusers.
“From what city staff have seen at the Courtyard, these pet owners are very diligent in caring for their animals to the point that some would not enter the Courtyard without the ability to have a place for their pets to be near them,” says city spokesman Jace Radke.
The Courtyard can be a haven for homeless individuals who don’t want to give up their pets. But it can be hellish for dogs and cats whose owners, usually because of substance abuse or mental illness, neglect their pets, according to residents and volunteers who say they are reluctantly walking away from the Courtyard.
“It’s like banging your head against the wall,” says Cynthia Miyamoto, who has volunteered and provided kennels, pet food and cat litter at the Courtyard for four-and-a-half-years through Urban Underdogs, a non-profit that helps animals on the streets. “Nothing changes. Nothing gets done. Owners are not held accountable. We have been talking about leaving for a long time but we …….