Homeless Man in Washington State Pauses in Order to Take a Snooze and It Ends Up Costing Him His Beloved Cat, Herman
"I'd rather have the cat back than the truck. It's stupid people that say it sounds stupid, but I'd rather have my cat back than the truck."
-- Jeff Young
One of the first things that those who are new to the street learn is that it is extremely dangerous to even fall asleep. The consequences of such normal behavior almost always are robbery and, sometimes, violent assault. Even being beaten to death by gangs of teens armed with baseball bats and golf clubs is a distinct possibility.
Since, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, an estimated five to ten per cent of all rough-sleepers own cats and dogs, taking even a brief snooze also can have dire repercussions for them as well. That was the terrifying lesson driven home firsthand to Jeff Young on February 9th when he and his gray, brown, and black cat, Herman, elected to settle in for the night underneath a canopy in the back of his 1989 silver Toyota pickup truck at the Capital Medical Center in Olympia, Washington. (See photo of him above.)
He rudely was awakened sometime during the night when a thief, after gaining entry into the cab, started the engine and sped out of the parking lot. Using his mobile phone, Young alerted the peelers but they were unable to catch up to the thief because he had an accomplice in a chase car blocking their pursuit.
The carjacker belatedly became cognizant that he had a stowaway on board and as soon as he turned off Highway 101 he stopped the truck and went to investigate. "The guy steps around the vehicle and he has a huge knife," Young related to KOMO-TV of Seattle on February 13th. (See "Man Sleeping in Back of Stolen Truck Pleads for Cat's Safe Return.") "I bolt out the back and he bolts back up to the front and takes off with my vehicle with my cat Herman in it."
A few days later one of the thieves was arrested and Young's truck was recovered. Sadly, Herman no longer was inside the vehicle. As best the authorities can determine, he most likely is on the loose in the vicinity of the Little Creek Casino in Shelton, west of Olympia.
Young may be down on his luck but that has not addled his brains in that he still knows what is important in life. "I'd rather have the cat back than the truck," he told KIRO-TV of Seattle on February 10th. (See "Possessions, Cat Still Missing from Man's Stolen Truck.") "It's stupid people say that it sounds stupid, but I'd rather have my cat back than the truck."
In addition to the perils associated with catching a few winks, the homeless would do well to steer clear of the vino. Sixty-two-year-old Henriette Henault violated that proscription on September 29, 2010 and it ended up costing her the continued companionship of her cat, Precious.
In the midst of a divorce, she had been living in a thirty-two-foot RV for two years with Precious and her dog, Mimi. On the night in question she had parked her RV in the lot beside the South Cariboo Visitor's Center in the town of 100 Mile House in central British Columbia. (See photo below of the town's misleading welcome sign.)
After polishing off a bottle of wine, she made the mistake of falling across the steering wheel with her arm on the horn. Someone called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and she promptly was arrested and unceremoniously carted off to the clink for the remainder of the evening.
The RCMP impounded her RV for thirty days which left her completely homeless. The officers did hold Mimi for her but in what appears to have been an act of extreme prejudice they callously allowed Precious to escape to parts unknown.
"I never drove and I have witnesses to prove it," she told The Province of Vancouver on October 2, 2010. (See "Woman Loses 'Parked' Motorhome, Cat, Misses Court Date in Divorce.") "The police decided I had been drinking and driving, and gave me this paper and gave me a Breathalyzer. They said I refused but I have asthma so I couldn't take it."
Even though Henault had received prior approval form the Visitor's Center to use its lot for up to a week, the RCMP treats that area as part of the highway. Apparently if she had been parked at a private campsite the RCMP would not have had the authority to arrest her.
"This individual is found in care and control of a motor vehicle," Dan Moskaluk, a corporal with the RCMP, told The Province in the article cited supra. "From there, there's an investigation."
Not totally without funds, she was able to lease an unfurnished apartment for a month at $550. She also was scheduled to have her RV returned to her and on top of that she was due to receive a settlement from her impending divorce.
She therefore probably came out all right financially in the end and she still has Mimi. None of that in any way detracts from the fact that her sipping on the grape cost her Precious.
Worst of all, Precious lost her home and, possibly, even her life. As far as it is known, she never was located.
As a general rule, individuals who have been drinking above the legal limit should not be caught within ten feet of an automobile. Even if they are spotted so much as sitting in a parked car the police are going to assume that they have been driving and accordingly will arrest if alcohol is involved.
That is precisely what happened to country singer Randy Travis last month in Sangor, Texas. The crooner, who has recorded such standards as "I Told You So," was sitting in his parked car outside a church when the police drove up and asked him if he had been hitting the sauce.
"Yes, sir, I have," he responded according to the February 17th edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer. (See "New Randy Travis Vid: You Kidding Me?") "But I'm not driving, as you can see."
After searching his car without a warrant and discovering a bottle of wine, the police arrested Travis and carted him off to jail. "Really? Are you kidding me?" a stunned and obviously very drunk Travis can be heard exclaiming incredulously in a police video posted February 16th on YouTube. (See "Randy Travis Arrest Video Released.")
Fortunately, he did not have a cat with him for the police to either purposefully lose or confiscate.
Fifty-nine-year-old vegetarian Barbara Morrell of Levittown, Pennsylvania, was not nearly so fortunate in her numerous encounters with the authorities. More or less homeless for the past few years, she had been reduced to living in her broken-down Ford Taurus at the Queen Anne Plaza just off the Levittown Parkway in Bristol Township. (See photo of her and her female cat above.)
For companionship she had a black and white male named Sea who had been with her for several years. In late September of last year she also acquired a brown-colored female, name unknown, who had been spayed and microchipped by the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia.
That organization then fobbed her off onto an unidentified no-kill group who in turn released her into a managed colony. Morrell reportedly took custody of her when she started following her around.
Morrell's downfall began on November 3rd when no-good, rotten Bristol Township Animal Control Officer Bill O'Brien came nosing around her parked car and detected a whiff of urine. He wasted no time in ratting her out to Nicole Thompson and Kathy Myron of the Bucks County SPCA (BCSPCA).
They arrived on the scene a day later and attempted to strong-arm Morrell into surrendering her cats. When she categorically refused, the Bristol Township Police were summoned and they confiscated her cats after one of the officers forcibly ripped her car keys from around her neck.
The cats, both of whom appear to be not only perfectly healthy but friendly as well, were removed to the BCSPCA's shelter in Lahaska. On November 9th, the organization filed two charges of animal cruelty against Morrell for confining the cats in cages that contained urine.
When Morrell failed to show up in court on December 6th, Bucks County District Court Judge Robert Wagner convicted her in absentia on both counts and awarded custody of her cats to the brazen thieves at the BCSPCA. (See Courier Times of Levittown, December 7, 2011, "SPCA Wins Custody of Cats Removed from Homeless Woman's Car.")
The female was renamed Ford while Sea's name was changed to Taurus. The BCSPCA held them for thirty days and, when Morrell failed to appeal Wagner's outrageous ruling, it put them up for adoption. Since neither cat is listed as being available on Petfinder, it is likely that both of them already have been adopted. (See photo of them directly below with Lisé Henkensiefken of the BCSPCA.)
As for down-and-out Morrell, there seemingly is no end to her miseries. Not contented with having stolen her beloved cats, the authorities in Bristol Township also have ticketed her disabled auto as a prelude to stealing it also.
Anywhere that injustice ever is allowed to prevail the truth also takes a severe beating. "This is what nightmares are made of," Thompson bellowed to the Courier News earlier on November 6th. (See "Woman in Cat Fight.")
People from the neighborhood who were familiar with Morrell and her cats tell an entirely different story. One unidentified woman recalls Morrell dressing Sea in sweaters in order to keep him warm during the wintertime and taking him to fast-food restaurants in the summertime in order to ensure that he did not succumb to hyperthermia.
"She obviously was doing her best to care for the animal (Sea), and it was also clear that she cared about it very much," another unidentified woman told the Courier News on November 11th. (See "SPCA Cites Homeless Woman for Animal Cruelty.") "When you live with all your belongings in a cramped Taurus, I would think that any kind of companionship is very important to you."
Mark Twain would have wholeheartedly concurred. "For where women and children are not, men of kindly impulses take up with pets, for they must love something," he observed in, appropriately enough, Roughing It.
Even more compelling, based upon the BCSPCA's trumped up charges against Morrell any individual who confines a cat in a cage would be guilty of animal cruelty. This would include those who lock up their companions in pet carriers in order to transport them to the veterinarian as well as to take them on vacation with them.
Since these cages are not equipped with functioning toilets, cats so confined, no matter how briefly, sooner or later are bound to urinate and defecate. If these jokers from the BCSPCA camped out in front of any veterinarian's office and confiscated all cats and arrested their owners every time that they smelled urine they would be laughed out of court. The same holds true if the BCSPCA pulled this stunt at any airport check-in station.
Even more outrageously, it is a sure bet that the smell of both urine and feces at shelters operated by the BCSPCA would be more than sufficient in order to flatten a bloke almost as quickly as a tornado topples a house. It therefore is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy for the BCSPCA to hold Morrell to a standard of conduct that it flaunts with impunity.
It was, however, the BCSPCA's head honcho, Ann Irwin, who unwittingly gave the game away. "Our preference is always to help animals and people together, but if we are unable to help the person, it is our job to give priority to helping the animals," she blowed to the Courier Times in the November 11th article cited supra. "The sad thing is that if she (Morrell) refuses (help) there is not anything that anyone can do."
That is hardly the unvarnished truth in that the BCSPCA had been badgering Morrell since July to surrender her cats and to enter a shelter. Morrell and her cats therefore never were presented with any genuine help or feasible alternatives.
To significantly condense a long story, there has been a war going on in this country for more than thirty years that pits the establishment against the homeless. Even that in itself is hypocritical because it was precisely the authorities who deliberately created the problem in the first place through their destruction of almost all affordable housing, their promotion of unchecked immigration, both legal and illegal, and the outsourcing of jobs. Runaway deficit spending additionally has fueled the fires of inflation which in turn has made other basic necessities, such as food, medical and veterinary care, and education, unaffordable for a sizable portion of the population.
In return for pulling the rug from underneath what used to be known as the working poor, the authorities have set up a shelter system that is far more sinister, degrading, and exploitative than the workhouses of Victorian England that Charles Dickens so vividly described. Other than lining the pockets of unscrupulous social workers, Christians, and Jews, the only thing that these violent and disease-ridden hellholes accomplish is to occasionally save a handful of souls from succumbing to hypothermia.
In return for a few hours of warmth each evening, individuals are forced to relinquish their tents, personal possessions, and cats. Above all, to enter a shelter an individual must forfeit all freedom, dignity, self-reliance, and hope for a better tomorrow.
While some of these diabolical institutions are under court orders to procure permanent housing for women and their children, no such mandate exists in regard to homeless individuals. Despite the billions of dollars that these institutions receive each year from various sources, they do almost nothing in order to secure permanent housing and jobs for homeless individuals.
Being a poverty pimp is, sans doute, a very lucrative profession. For example, Ocean County, New Jersey, claims to spend $19 million annually on its homeless contingent and yet most of them are relegated to either sleeping in the woods or temporary stays at welfare hotels. That is in addition to those individuals that it conveniently gets rid of by buying them one-way, no return bus tickets from Toms River to Atlantic City.
In Fairfax, Virginia, social workers rake in $75,000 per annum plus all that they can steal by delivering food and other basic necessities to the homeless camped out in the woods near Dulles International Airport. Elsewhere, it is not uncommon for some of these so-called advocates for the homeless to knock down six-figure salaries for doing practically nothing.
In Manhattan back during in the 1980's, Columbia University, Baruch College, New York University, the New School for Social Research, and other institutions of so-called higher learning confiscated blocks of low-income housing and in the process turned thousands of New Yorkers into street dwellers. Even that bit of devilry was insufficient in order to pacify these rapacious cretins because once they had accomplished that they turned around and cashed in a second time by offering courses on the homeless crisis. Being anything but honest and forthright scholars, these phony-baloney professors were careful to redact from their long-winded lectures any mention of the role that they had played in creating this human tragedy in the first place.
If therefore should not come as any surprise that any homeless person who categorically refuses to knuckle under to the the authorities' diktat is soon marked for retaliation. That is precisely what happened to Morrell. The BCSPCA and its allies in Bristol Township knew that they could not bend her to their will so they in turn went after her cats.
If the BCSPCA is guilty of overzealousness and misplaced priorities, the opposite is definitely true of the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS). For example, in the retail district of downtown Honolulu known as Kakaako an unidentified homeless woman has been operating a de facto street corner animal shelter for more than a dozen years.
Specifically, she keeps up to several dozen cats and an occasional rabbit in tiny cages that she wheels around by using shopping trolleys and a bicycle. (See photo of her above.)
Some of the cats are confined three to a cage where urine, feces, fleas, flies, and the Hawaiian heat are their constant companions. It also has been alleged that she curses and beats them. To top it all off, these atrocities are going on directly in front of the state Department of Health! (See photo directly below of some of the caged cats.)
"We believe the way that the animals are being kept in these small cages and never allowed to leave ... that it's inhumane and that it's a violation of the state of Hawaii's anti-cruelty statutes," Pamela Davis of the Animal Advocate told the now defunct Star-Bulletin of Honolulu on October 20, 2009. (See "'Cat Lady' Relinquishes Twenty Pets.")
As difficult as it may be for some to believe, the HHS is assisting the woman in her abhorrent treatment of these cats. In particular, it has been providing her with traps and cages as well as defending her against her numerous detractors.
A representative of the organization visits her once a week in order to check on the well-being of the cats and has taken an unspecified number of them away from her. Most recently on October 9, 2009, it relieved her of nineteen cats and one rabbit.
"We've been working with her for more than five years, and finally we're starting to build trust with her and an understanding," the HHS's Keoni Vaughn declared to the Star-Bulletin. "We're just so delighted that we've got her to reduce her numbers."
For its part, the HHS defends its lack of action by arguing that the woman is not breaking any laws. It also disputes Davis's claim that she never lets the cats out of their cages.
Quite obviously, if the woman is not in violation of any of Hawaii's anti-cruelty statutes they could not possibly be worth very much. Secondly, it is amazing that she has not been cited under Honolulu's health and public nuisance ordinances.
To hear Vaughn tell it, however, the woman is a model cat owner. "She treats those cats like they were her kids," he gushed to the Star-Bulletin in the article cited supra.
Reading between the lines, it seems likely that the HHS is too lazy, cheap, and uncaring in order to humanely attend to Honolulu's homeless cat population and as a result it tolerates this curbside shelter. If there is some credence to that supposition, it is perhaps best after all that the cats remain with the woman because with that sort of attitude the HHS likely would only snuff out their lives.
Animal Advocate has posted on YouTube a video entitled "The Failure of the Hawaiian Humane Society" which certainly is worthwhile viewing for all those who care about cats.
A similarly disturbing incident occurred recently in San Francisco that involved a pug-nosed Himalayan with orange-colored eyes named Samantha and a fifty-eight-year-old homeless panhandler named Daniel Harlan. (See photo of them directly below.)
On February 5, 2010, Harlan left Samantha tethered to his tent at a homeless camp underneath a freeway exit ramp near Eighth and Brannan streets and when he returned she had disappeared. He took his case to the police, SPCA, and Animal Control but, typically, none of them were about to lift so much as a finger in order to help either a cat or a homeless man.
Undeterred, he next contacted the San Francisco Chronicle which on February 9th published an article about him and Samantha and that did the trick. (See "Homeless Man Offers Reward for Missing Cat.")
As luck would have it, Samantha had been picked up by kindhearted Tom Neville who feared that her life was threatened by some nearby dogs. Once he read the story in the Chronicle he contacted Harlan and unsuccessfully attempted to purchase her from him.
In the end, he reluctantly returned Samantha to Harlan along with some cat food and $40. "I wanted to to the right thing," he told the Chronicle on February 10th. (See "Homeless Man Reunited with Cat.") "He does love her. No question about it. He cried when he saw her."
Actually, it probably would have been far better for Samantha if Neville had not been so selfless. In addition to the dogs at Harlan's camp, Samantha's fur was matted, she was infested with fleas, and had sores.
Even more revealing, Harlan admitted to the Chronicle that he receives $975 each month from Social Security on top of what he cadges begging and that is more than sufficient in order to secure some form of lodging even in San Francisco. For instance, a fairly recent perusal of the advertisements on craigslist revealed numerous furnished rooms going for between $575 and $800 per month with hotel rooms averaging $175 a week.
Food Not Bombs and other charities hand out food in the street every day and San Francisco has numerous soup kitchens and food pantries. Harlan undoubtedly also receives food stamps and there always is plenty of free clothing available from various sources.
The only logical conclusion to be drawn from all of that is that Harlan is homeless by choice. Since his half-brother, Stephen Kent of Oklahoma, claims that he no longer drinks, he surely must be a drug addict and that does not bode well for Samantha.
Not only is cigarette smoke hazardous to cats, but so too are drugs that are smoked. (See Cat Defender posts of October 19, 2007 and September 27, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Smokers Are Killing Their Cats, Dogs, Birds, and Infants by Continuing to Light Up in Their Presence" and "Caged, Shot Thirty Times with an Air Gun, and Then Tossed into a Bay to Drown, Lovey Is Rescued in the Middle of the Night by a Good Samaritan.")
On July 5th of last year, twenty-one-year-old Danielle Blankenship of Boulder, Colorado, was arrested and charged with killing her neighbor's cat, Muffin, by deliberately blowing heroin smoke into its face. (See Daily Mail, July 8, 2011, "Muffin's Overdose: Young Woman Accused of Killing Neighbor's Cat...by Blowing Heroin Smoke in Its Face.")
Although as far as it is known the custody tussle over Samantha was handled as a purely private matter without any outside involvement, it seems clear that Harlan should have been given an ultimatum to back up his professed love for Samantha with concrete, positive action. Specifically, since he obviously has sufficient funds in order to provide her with a home he should have been ordered to have done so as a condition for retaining custody of her.
Group homeless camps are far different from individual settings in that they attract all sorts of individuals and not all of them are kindly disposed toward cats. Even homeless shelters that have experimented with keeping cats as morale boosters have reported radically mixed results. (See Cat Defender posts of May 5, 2009, May 6, 2009, and August 17, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Gracie Brings a Ray of Hope and Good Cheer to the Down-and-Out at a Women's Shelter in Fredericton," "Resident at a Church-Run Homeless Shelter in Seattle Uses a Box Cutter in Order to Gut Scatt from Collarbone to Tail," and "America's Insane Love Affair with Criminals Continues as Drunkard Who Sliced Open Scatt with a Box Cutter Gets Off with Time on the Water Wagon.")
Secondly, he should have been ordered to get off drugs and into a treatment program. If he was unwilling to fulfill both of those requirements, Samantha should have been given to Neville.
Although few homeless cat owners attract quite the notoriety that has enveloped Morrell, the woman in Honolulu, and Harlan, just about all cities nowadays have at least one. Recently, for example, a senior citizen known only as Joan was living on the streets of Hoboken, New Jersey, along with her twelve-year-old white cat, Sugar. (See photo of her above.)
Although Joan has a full-time job as a maintenance worker, she apparently does not earn enough money in order to pay rent on a regular basis. Consequently, whenever the weather is bad she is forced to shell out $130 for a room for the night for Sugar and herself.
Other than for the unprovoked attacks that all homeless individuals suffer sooner or later, she and Sugar are persevering. "Most people are nice," she told the Hudson Reporter of Hoboken on March 14, 2009. (See "Travels with Sugar.") "Some of the kids, when they get drunk, are just plain mean."
From all appearances, Sugar looks to be healthy thanks in no small part to all the Fancy Feast cat food that Joan procures for her. "She's not exactly skinny. We have food," she added to the Hudson Reporter. "But I'd give anything for an affordable home again."
At last report, she was looking forward to retiring and collecting Social Security in 2010. That undoubtedly will make life a little easier for her but it is difficult to understand how she is going to be able to pay rent on what little the government gives her when she is unable to do so now working five days a week.
With all of her relatives long dead, Sugar is all that she has left in this world. "That's my family," she told the Hudson Reporter in the article cited supra.
In Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, a now fifty-two-year-old German expatriate known only as Brigitte has been living at Son Sant Joan Aeropuerto with a white male Persian named Mumu for close to fourteen years. (See photo of them directly below.)
Her worldly possession consist of three suitcases, a few blankets, and some books that she pushes around the terminal in a trolley. Mumu rides in a stroller.
"Er est wie ein Hund," she said in 2008. "Ich gehe mit ihm kurz nach draußen und dann erledigt er sein Geschaft." (See Cat Defender post of November 3, 2008 entitled "Down and Out in Paradise: Against All Odds, Brigitte and Mumu Strive to Forge New Lives for Themselves at Mallorcan Airport.")
Brigitte keeps herself and Mumu clean and works whenever she can but it is difficult being a German national in a Spanish enclave. From all appearances, however, Mumu looks to be in excellent health and doing well under extremely trying circumstances.
On a purely psychological level, there can be little doubt that cats cared for by the homeless are treated far better than those who live with domiciled families. These men and women are totally devoted to their cats and that is demonstrated by the inordinate amount of time that they spend with them.
Most conventional owners on the other hand have little or no time for their cats. They feed and water them twice a day but about ninety-nine per cent of their time is devoted to shekel chasing, mindless self-indulgence, and sleeping.
More likely than not if cats could talk they would express a strong preference for being cherished by their homeless guardians as opposed to being treated like wall decorations by considerably more affluent domiciled owners. After all, cats are not nearly as impressed with the material trappings of the modern world as humans.
Much the same is true of TNR practitioners in that most of them spend little or no time with the cats under their care. In addition to all the safety issues involved in allowing cats to live exclusively outdoors, such behavior contributes very little toward socializing them for future adoption.
Dealing with the pets of the homeless is, quite obviously, an extremely complicated affair that needs to be approached on a case-by-case basis. Just as importantly, it is extremely problematic as to who has the right to adjudicate legitimate animal welfare issues whenever they arise.
Since they have proven themselves time and time again to be little more than dressed-up extermination camps, all conventional shelters and Animal Control officers have forfeited their moral prerogative to sit in judgement of the homeless and anyone else for that matter. As verified by the callous treatment that Morrell's female cat, Ford, received, no kill operations and TNR practitioners are suspect as well.
Additionally, shelters that confiscate the cats of the homeless only to later turn around and kill them are far worse guardians of them than the impecunious. In the final analysis, it is preferable to allow the homeless to keep their cats so long as they are well-fed, sheltered to some degree, and not in any immediate danger.
Animal welfare groups could be helpful if they were willing to provide the homeless with food and veterinary care for their cats but, as the BCSPCA's treatment of Morrell and her cats has demonstrated, that is the farthest thing from their diseased minds. They have their own agendas and they do not include helping either cats or the homeless.
The one notable exception to that rule is Feeding Pets of the Homeless. Based in Carson City, Nevada, this worthy organization donates pet food to food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens in America and Canada. It also sometimes pays veterinarians to treat the pets of the homeless.
Like it or not, homeless cats and individuals are now a permanent part of the modern landscape. Communities can either treat them as vermin to be eradicated or they can adopt a more compassionate approach that respects the rights of both groups to live.
Photos: KIRO-TV (Young), Andrew Bremmer of Wikipedia (welcome sign at 100 Mile House), Courier News (Morrell, Ford and Taurus), Animal Advocate (cat woman of Honolulu and caged cats), Mike Kepka of the San Francisco Chronicle (Samantha and Harlan), Hudson Reporter (Sugar), and S. Llompart of the Mallorca Zeitung (Brigitte and Mumu).