Many people who live isolated lives, by choice or otherwise, have animal companions. A number of them, in turn, are extremely poor. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, about 5 to 10 percent of homeless people have pets. For Oahu’s homeless population with pets, living a transient life on the beaches or in the parks is preferred because transitional shelters are pet-unfriendly. Most choose living on the street with their companions rather than giving them up in order to be housed.
Homeless people with animal companions share symbiotic lives with their pets. Pets help the lonely or the isolated maintain their humanity. The animals are someone to come home to, someone to care for, someone who appreciates their human's affection and ministration. The presence of an animal can be the only thing left that mediates between life and death, especially for people that have lost hope. Some homeless families desperately need the companionship of a faithful pet, even if they struggle to put food on their own table, let alone in the pet food bowl.
Complicating the existence of Oahu’s homeless people and their pets are the island wide beach and park clean-ups. May families and their pets must remain mobile in anticipation of an unexpected move mandated by cleanup efforts. Many of their pets, including the strays and ferals that live in proximity to homeless encampments, are unsterilized, unidentifiable other than by physical description of the homeless owner, and frequently running loose in violation of the City’s leash law. As a result, many pets are often left behind, lost in the transition, or injured in the process. Therefore homeless people experience a greater burden in feeding, sheltering and caring for their homeless pets.