People experiencing homelessness, like many of the rest of us, find the companionship of an animal can alleviate some of the symptoms of stress and poor health. This population is at high risk of suffering post-traumatic stress, and other mental or physical issues. While they do not have the resources to obtain a trained assistance animal, the positive benefits of companionship between human and animal is undeniable.
Persons that are considered “homeless” are generally not in a long-term or emergency shelter, nor are they part of a transitional housing program. The street homeless may camp in the arroyos or in the mountains; they may live in abandoned buildings, or they may sleep in their vehicles. No mater were they and their four legged companion are, they seek comfort, connection and safety.
None of the emergency or long-term human shelters in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico have the resources to house companion animals along with their people. Many street homeless choose not to obtain shelter services, fearing that the relationship with their companion will have to end. Many will risk their own health and safety, by not seeking services, to assure they will remain with their cherished animal.
SHAP- Northern New Mexico Street Homeless Animal Project Inc. was founded to help people on the street keep and care for their companion animal, their family.
The hope is that if the individual can build a trusting relationship with SHAP, they may be more trustful of other human-related health and shelter services. Our hope is to build a network of foster families, kennel opportunities, volunteers or even a facility. So that if the person needs to be away from his or her companion animal both will be safe and sound until they are reunited.
In 1998, when Karen Cain moved to Santa Fe, she drove around town, with the trunk of her car packed with food, asking the homeless if their companion animals needed food or veterinary care. Karen received her counseling license in 1999. She worked for a number of years at a local homeless shelter. There, she realized that the companion animals of these individuals were also impacted by homelessness. The street homeless community began seeking her out and the informal program flourished. In 2009 we made the program official by receiving our own 501 (c)(3).