When Karena was alone, YOU were there for her

Isaboo FBIG

It’s Christmas Eve night and there are reminders of the holiday all around you. You’re camped out at a Phoenix bus stop with all your belongings because you have no home to go to. You’re alone, except for your pets. They’re everything to you.

“It’s really hard, but they’re always there. They’ll always come and snuggle with you.”

Karena found herself in this situation last year after a series of events lead her to become homeless. On permanent disability, she lives with a metal rod in her back from a past health condition and suffers PTSD from domestic violence. She also has cancer and is undergoing treatment.

Karena survives on a fixed income of just $803 per month. 

When she suddenly lost her home in Winslow last year her world crumbled. She traveled to Phoenix with her 19-year-old son and pets to stay with her daughter but that didn’t work out for long when challenges arose between the animals in the home.

Suddenly Karena found herself not just without a home, but actually homeless.  While her son was able to stay behind to live with his sister, Karena began setting up camp with her pets in local parks and bus stops, rotating from one to the next while she tried to figure out what to do. Can you imagine how this must feel?

Leaving her pets behind was never something Karena could bring herself to consider. With a long history of fostering animals back in Winslow and opening her home permanently to other pets, she knows firsthand what it means to care for animals in need.

“That is why I volunteered to foster for the Winslow animal control. It felt good for us to see them go to their new homes after we had brought them from a bad place to a good home. We had like 8 dogs get adopted that we fostered. That is why I care so much about mine, I know where they came from.

Tiger Hawk came off the street and was dying of starvation and Isaboo came from a garage. Ziva was thrown from a moving vehicle. Destiny was found with her litter mates dumped on the side of the road. Muttley was abused as a puppy and I took him in as soon as I could when he was less than 3 months old. So they have all been my family for most of their lives.”

One afternoon last December Karena struck up a conversation with someone in the park. It turned out to be Maddie’s Fund Research Fellow at the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, Lisa Gunter, Ph.D.

Not only is Dr. Gunter a tremendously well-respected leader in the field of animal science and behavior, but she’s also friends with The Arizona Pet Project Executive Director, Leanna Taylor! Dr. Gunter told Karena about the work AZPP does and referred her to us for support.

When our team got the heads up about Karena’s situation our Shelter Intervention Counselor and Veterinary Social Worker, Valerie, tracked Karena down at the bus stop where she had hunkered down for the night. It was Christmas Eve.

Thanks to the support of people just like you, we were able to get Karena off the street that Christmas night and into temporary housing, and all six of her pets went safely to temporary boarding at Lost our Home Pet Rescue to give Karena the time to figure out what to do next.

“Being able to stay in one location sounds nice and to be able to rest sounds nice too. Tonight for the first time since Christmas we got pillows!! I feel like a little kid at Christmas yippee a pillow!!! Don’t worry I haven’t lost my mind. Just really happy to have more than my coat under my head. It gets really hard to lie like that but I am grateful to be out of the weather at night and thankful to you for looking after my babies. I really miss them.”

It’s been a very long journey since last December. The COVID-19 pandemic has made finding affordable housing that accepts pets even more difficult than it already was. Karena had to make the heartbreaking choice to re-home a few of her pets in order to find housing but there were loving open arms waiting and they were adopted by new families quickly. One of them even ended up staying with their foster family who’d already fallen in love! Karena rests a lot easier knowing some of her friends are safe, loved, and cared for, even if they can’t be with her.

With the support of partner organizations like Lost Our Home and other outstanding programs like iHelp, Halle Women’s Center, and Rapid Rehousing, Valerie continued to work with Karena for months, both of them determined to find a solution. We are SO happy to share that they did find housing for Karena AND her furry friends!

Late this summer they moved into their own place and couldn’t be happier. Hear from Karena about her experience in this video!

“My babies and I appreciate you taking your time that day to come and meet us in the park and help us. If you hadn’t listened to Dr. Gunter that day we would have been in so much worse shape. I was doing my best but my health was failing and I was scared that I wasn’t going to be able to take care of us much longer. But thanks to you, even though we couldn’t be together, we all had Christmas with a roof over our heads and food to eat. This year hopefully we will be able to have a decent Christmas together again. And that is because of you helping us get out of that situation. God bless you.”