One hundred and fifty people showed up for a home cooked meal and it rained, lightly at first and then harder as twilight became dark.

They were lined up even before the arrival of the vans bringing the food, patiently waiting while a score of volunteers set out the serving line and enough warm food to feed a small army...and it rained

We brought forty meals Monday, one cup servings each in paper lunch bags: twenty cat meals and twenty dog meals.
One of the volunteerrs agreed to set up at the end of the serving line and ask each guest if they needed a pet meal. Most looked surprised, some thought it was a joke others looked away and moved along; I wondered if they were the ones who might return next week and ask for a pet bag.

December 1st the Hungry Bowl Pet Food Drive begins. For twelve days people can drop pet food at designated locations throughout the community. The food goes to a local animal rescue - it varies from community to community. This year For Paws Hospice and our partner Luv All Pets have decided to share a portion of the collected food with pets of the homeless through a local 'soup kitchen'.

It is estimated that perhaps thirty percent of homeless Americans have pets. Society however makes it difficult if not impossible to know for certain; local ordinances; leash laws, licensing and vaccinations requirements force many homeless persons to hide their pet for fear of confiscation by authorities.

Homelessness whether temporary or permanent - laws are not designed to make a distinction - is not a crime and should not carry a penalty that deprives a homeless person the comfort and security of a companion animal.

Further complicating the issue most shelters do not allow animals a practice that often discourages people from applying for community housing, sheltering or even admittance to safe areas such as tent cities or storm shelters.

The result is a hidden community of domestic animals, their human companions and a nightmare for public health officials. Food is not the only answer but neither are laws that don't offer hope for nurturing family ties or a community too impoverished in spirit to provide shelter to all of its members human and animal.