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reality sound bites.

Hope For The Homeless.

2010 edition of The New Barker. At the time, the clinic was still operating in the back of the St. Francis House homeless shelter.

The St. Francis House Pet Care Chris Machen and eight-year-old Wylie. alachua county...

Oftentimes, as a society, we choose to look the other way at life’s unpleasant- ness. Perhaps in today’s economy, the plight of the homeless human is just a lit- tle too close for comfort. We may find it easier to adjust, react and respond to the injustices and suffering of homeless ani- mals before handing a dollar to a home- less man standing on a street corner. And some who have reached out to help the homeless in their communities are criti- cized for being enablers. Several years ago, while driving

across town in Gainesville, Chris Machen noticed what others chose to ignore. The proliferation of homeless people with pets, mostly dogs, some cats. She observed how well-loved the pets were when their humans wandered into the St. Francis House soup kitchen and homeless shel- ter, where she was a volunteer. Wanting to become more involved in her communi- ty, Chris listened as her friend, Gainesville veterinarian, Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein talked about wanting to open a clinic for animals of Gainesville’s homeless popula- tion.

We first featured the St. Francis House Pet Care Clinic in the winter


Clinic was officially founded in September 2007 by Kaplan-Stein, Machen, and Dr. Natalie Isaza, Director of the new Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. They saw one dog on the opening day. When word of mouth about the clinic spread among the city’s homeless, more people and their pets showed up the following week. Chris remembers, “When we told the crowd that this was going to be an ongo- ing service for them, I could tell they were skeptical. They thought we were just a couple of do-gooders who would eventually tire of it and drop out.” The Clinic registered as a non-prof-

it corporation in the state of Florida on January 1, 2010, and was granted federal status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organiza- tion in the spring of 2010. In October, 2011 the Clinic moved to temporary quarters generously provided by the Civic Media Center at 433 S. Main Street. Today, they have a building of their own at 501 SE 2nd St. in Gainesville, just north of the RTS Downtown Station. Students from the University of

Florida Veterinary School of Medicine volunteer at the clinic and work along- side veterinarians who also donate their time and services. There is no paid staff. Everyone has made it a point to learn about the people who come to them for their pet’s care. “The homeless are not faceless,” says Dr. Dale Kaplan-Stein. “They are people. Those who say that the poor should not own pets should rethink that statement, because that pet could be the only thing that gives them joy, love and hope. Animals give us unconditional love. As long as they have food and shel- ter - they don’t care if it’s a cardboard box or the Taj Mahal. Pets make us better people.” Chris, who was a pediatric nurse and is married to University of Florida

President, Bernie Machen, admits that this volunteer work has been the most satisfying she has ever done. “It has exceeded all of our expectations. Getting to know people in these really difficult situations, to see the responsibility they take for the care of their animals, the majority are incredibly responsible pet owners,” she said. “We try to keep people and the pets they love together so that the animals don’t end up in shelters because their owners can’t take care of them.”

The Goals of St. Francis House Pet Care:

1) To provide professional non-emer- gency veterinary care and consultation to the pets of homeless and very low income residents of Alachua County, including veterans referred from the VA.

2) To teach responsible pet ownership.

3) To encourage the spaying/neutering of dogs and cats. The Clinic also pro- vides monthly flea and heartworm pre- ventives, food for cats and dogs, and pet supplies.

St. Francis House Pet Care Clinic 352.372.4959

pasco county... The number of Pasco county resi-

dents who are becoming homeless and living in camps with their pets is on a sig- nificant rise. Whether they have lost everything and cannot live without their beloved family pet, or have befriended a homeless pet at a camp, it is clear that they are taking care of each other. The SPCA Suncoast has partnered

with a local church that is helping the families get back on their feet, including helping them look for jobs. The SPCA Suncoast has also made the commitment to help keep them with their pets.


Photograph by Randy Batista.

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