With the advent of smart phones, social networking sites and game apps, it seems we rarely look up these days. Let alone acknowledge the homeless on the sidewalk as we hurry by. Not so with 18 year-old, animal lover, Shira Rich. After helping various street dogs in Riverside get adopted or reunited with their owners, she started noticing homeless people with dogs, too. Shira persuaded mom, Lori, to accompany her, and what began as the occasional hand out of dog food and water, developed into ‘Taking it to the Streets with Lori and Shira.’
Initially the focus was kept on the animals; distributing food, water, leashes, toys etc. The people were wary, and it took time to build trust. One year later, however, the goal has become more about helping both dogs and their human companions. Supported by friends and strangers, donations have expanded to include things such as toiletries, towels, socks, and blankets. The reward is in knowing the animals are taken care of, and simple gestures of gratitude. Says Shira, ‘One guy makes these cool flowers out of weaving palm fronds. He’s given me a few of those’.
From teaching good pet care, to re-homing dogs that can no longer be cared for, Shira and Lori do what they can to make living on the streets with animals a little easier. Learning that the homeless often gather at the Calvary Presbyterian Church for food, they enlisted friends and set up a table with supplies outside. Now, once or twice a month, the Street Store gives to about 200 people, and their dogs. For Shira, it’s spreading kindness. Not everyone agrees. Yet despite accusations of ‘enabling’ those with drug and alcohol issues, Shira remains adamant. ‘You can’t enable a dog. They don’t have a drinking problem. And often they have a bigger bond with their human, than a dog with an owner who works 8 hours a day.’
Currently studying for college with the hopes of becoming a Police Officer in the K9 Unit, Shira now leaves the daily street visits to her dedicated mom. But at the weekends, she can often be found on the street – looking for those who needs help. ‘I used to see the homeless but never thought about their lives. A lot of people de-humanize them so they don’t have to think about it. But they’re people like the rest of us. They just live on the street’.
You can find ‘Taking it to the Streets with Lori and Shira’ on Facebook, here
If you’re interested in contributing, their Wishlist is here.
Taking it to the Streets in action: