SAN ANTONIO – During Thursday’s clearing of the homeless camp under I-37, the first belonging many individuals grabbed was the leash for their pets.
Nonprofit organizations across San Antonio said pet ownership among those experiencing homelessness is becoming more prominent in the city as pet companionship helps with people’s emotional well-being.
“When it comes to the homeless population, they might be living in an encampment, they might be on the streets,” Eric Cooper, the president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, said. “Their security (and) their only companion is their pet.”
The fact is many experiencing homelessness prefer to sleep on the streets with their pet rather than in a shelter without their dog.
“For many of these shelters that housed the homeless, they just don’t have the facilities to be able to accommodate a pet,” Cooper said.
It is unclear how many individuals living in the streets of San Antonio are pet owners. And while not all of the food collected is distributed to nonprofits serving individuals experiencing homelessness, Cooper said they recognize there is a big need.
“What’s the demand, What’s the need?” Cooper said. “It’s about a half a million pounds of pet food a year, and so that’s 20 semi-truck loads that we’re trying to collect.”
Through its partner, Daisy Cares, the San Antonio Food Bank works to collect supplies to make sure all pets are provided for.
“It’s a humbling to see that so many that then struggle to get access to food that can feed their pets,” Cooper said. “And so for over a decade, the San Antonio Food Bank has worked to provide pet food to families so that they can make sure that member of the household gets nourished, too.”
“I was humbled, you know, learning that oftentimes the food boxes we would provide to nourish the individual would be used to feed a pet.”