By Elisa Black-Taylor
Would you keep your cat if you became homeless? Being without a home has happened to a lot of people who never dreamed they’d be without a place to live. Between the bad economy with job losses and foreclosures, plus the rise in drug and alcohol use, being homeless is a problem in most cities in the U.S. Statistics show there are at least 200 homeless residents on the streets on a given night in most cities. I imagine the number is much higher it metro areas.
Nonpayment of property taxes is also a way to become homeless. Your home is sold right out from under you should you not pay what’s owed. Sometimes I finding myself doubting whether we ever really own anything these days.
You don’t even have to have lost your home to be made homeless. July was a very scary time for us because the police were talking about us having to vacate our home because of unsafe conditions because we had smoke damage on the ceiling. This happened during the investigation we had to go through when animal control came out. I never knew smoke damage that was out of reach and wouldn’t rub off could be cause for eviction since I own the property outright, but apparently it’s legal and we could have been forced to leave. Laura had a place to go should this have happened to us. I didn’t and could picture myself having to live in the woods behind my home.
The thought of being homeless while owning a home really hit a nerve with me that I won’t soon forget. When I saw this article recently done by the Independent Mail, the newspaper in my hometown, I knew I had to build a story around it. Because this can happen to anyone.
I remember years ago when many poor people in Anderson were forced from their homes because the homes were determined to be unsafe. Now there are programs to help the elderly fix up their homes. Back then you were on your own.
You can also become homeless if you are sued. This happens often when injury leads to high medical bills or death of another person and you don’t enough insurance to cover it.
The story digs deep into a subject most people like to pretend doesn’t exist. Homeless camps. Anderson has several homeless camps located in areas on the south end of town. Tents have been pitched in a 30 acre wooded area behind an old shopping center and couples are living there with their cats (and dogs). There’s also a camp behind the Wal-Mart on 28 By-Pass. Here’s the link.
This story interested me because my ex, who passed away in 2009, knew a lot of these people. The reason he knew them is he was homeless for three years back in the mid 1990’s. He’d been diagnosed with cancer and Social Security turned him down for benefits. It took six years to get them started, but he was reimbursed back several years. He lost everything since he was unable to work. He started out staying at the Salvation Army in Atlanta, Georgia and later came back to our hometown of Anderson, where he stayed in the woods and along railroad tracks with his homeless friends. He later moved back in with his elderly parents.
There are many types of homeless people living in tent villages. Some have mental problems or drug problems. Some are what I call allergic to work, meaning they wouldn’t hold down a regular job if their life depended on it. Many can’t get past that first paycheck, and buy beer and drugs and are too intoxicated to return to work. A lot of people don’t like the fact these homeless people are receiving government benefits paid for by the taxpayers. This includes help with food as well as medical care and sometimes government money such as disability benefits. Many of these people are able to work and choose not to. Most of these are men, but many have girlfriends who stay with them.
One man I know who lives in a homeless camp house sat for my ex and I during our last vacation together in 2005. He made sure our dogs and cats were fed and the house wasn’t broken into while we were away. Anderson is a dangerous place these days and it took a lot of worry off of us knowing he was there watching over the property. Most homeless people back then were nice and we trusted him. He didn’t let us down.
It’s a different situation today. Crystal meth and alcohol have created a dangerous society made worse without real walls to surround a person to keep them safe. Yet these homeless people who struggle every day to find food for themselves must also find food for their pets.
Although I admire them, as it would be easier to take the animal to a shelter, it concerns me a great deal for a cat to be out in the weather and living in dangerous conditions. This summer the heat index rose to almost 110F degrees and the winter temps drop as low as 5F degrees when you figure the wind chill. I realize feral cats live in these conditions all the time. I just think it sad. I don’t know whether the homeless took up with cats already living in the tent camp or brought their own personal cats when they moved in. Crime in the camp is low, unlike the murders that have occurred closer into the city.
The officials in Anderson are trying to run the residents out of the camp. No trespassing notices have been issued, but these people who had no where else to go are about to have to find another forest, another abandoned house. I wonder if they will take their cats with them? Since they go out and acquire food for them, I assume the cat will go along if at all possible.
I learned a lot about survival and how the homeless live by listening to my ex. I hope I never need any of the skills he taught me on how to start fires, edible plants and self defense.
How do the readers here feel about cats living in these conditions? Is an unstable environment better than risking euthanasia at a shelter. Would you keep your cat if you became homeless?