I know you’re seen them. Standing at the entry and exit points of freeways. Sitting on boxes on street corners. Setting up an improvised studio to serenade us with music. Handwritten signs asking for work or money to buy food. It’s hard to ignore them, but we do.
Here in Washington State, the number of people living in poverty decreased in 2016, but still, nearly 1 in 9 Washingtonians lived below the poverty line . . . and this was in a growing economy. We are the 25th hungriest state in the U.S. In Tacoma and Pierce County we are lucky enough to have both the Emergency Food Network and Nourish! I’m a member of the Transportation Club of Tacoma and the Rotary Club of Tacoma #8. Both of these organizations do a great job supporting those two non-profits in addition to other smaller groups . . . and yet, many of our neighbors, friends and families are hungry. About half of the people served by our emergency food systems are children and the elderly. But hunger goes beyond people.
According to the National Coalition on Homelessness, there are 3.5 million homeless Americans. “Roughly five to ten percent of homeless people have pets (dogs and/or cats). In some areas of the country the rate is as high as 24%.” Pets are nonjudgmental. They offer comfort and security. For the homeless they provide protection and often warmth on a cold night. Pets struggle with their homeless owners as well as owners who have homes.
Food banks do receive donations of pet food at times, and when they do, they are quick to make it available to their shoppers. This never happens on a regular enough basis.
Pet owners with a temporary need for dog or cat food can visit the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County. “If your pets are not altered, you will be given food the first visit, as well as vouchers to have your pets spayed or neutered for a minimal fee. Proof of spay/neuter must then be provided for subsequent food bank visits to receive food.” – www.thehumanesociety.org/services/emergency-pet-food-bank/. If you are not comfortable with altering your pets, then there is one more place to turn.
There is the dedicated Puget Sound Pet Food Bank which helps owners from two locations (in Tacoma on Sixth Avenue and in Spanaway at 21222 Mountain Highway E) – “Our mission at Puget Sound Pet Food bank is to provide food, treats & supplies for pets in need.” The first two years of this organization began with Marge Meyer and Reverend Frances Lorenz as co-founders of the Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) Pet Food Bank in Tacoma. Supporters volunteer “To save families from having to give up their loyal companions, we stand here with open arms ready to help families make sure that their animals get the necessities that they need.” To see how you can help, please call 253-250-5078 or visit their website. – pugetsoundpetfoodbank.org
Struggling people look for full-time jobs, part-time jobs, or sometimes ask for tips in exchange for a few minutes of street entertainment. Wouldn’t it be nice if pets could talk . . . or play the saxophone? In the mean time, we have to help them when and where we can.