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For these homeless individuals, comfort comes with a collar

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of the million homeless individuals across the U.S. have pets. For the first time, an Arizona survey of local homeless populations has begun to gather information about these animal companions as well as their humans. Samie Gebers of Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism reports on the bond connecting person and pet when all they have is each other.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of the over one million homeless individuals across the country have pets.

    For the first time, surveyors in Arizona started to not only gather information on homeless humans, but added their faithful companions.

    From the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State university, Samie Gebers reports.

  • Samie Gebers:

    When you're living on the streets, friends can be hard to find. So when you have one next to you all the time, you cherish them.

  • Cecelia Goedel:

    I give the food from my plate to my dog before I eat. There's nights I will go hungry just to let — make sure my dogs eat.

  • Samie Gebers:

    Cecelia Goedel is homeless, so looking out for her two dogs is difficult.

  • Vanessa Cornwall:

    Most homeless shelters do not allow pets. So it's really a challenge for people who are trying to seek shelter and their pets aren't welcome.

  • Samie Gebers:

    Vanessa Cornwall and the pet rescue organization she works for, Lost Our Home, helps people by taking in their pet while owners try to sort out living arrangements or a job. They also provide pet food and other supplies.

    And due to Arizona's climate, having a pet with you on the streets can be tough.

  • Vanessa Cornwall:

    That's a big challenge, because, obviously, if it's too hot for people to be outside, it's definitely too hot for your pets.

  • Samie Gebers:

    Cornwall wanted to find out more about what these owners needed, so she participated in the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Count in Maricopa County.

  • Shantae Smith:

    We learned that there could be potential challenges to folks obtaining housing and supportive services.

  • Samie Gebers:

    And for the first time since the count started almost 20 years ago, surveyors asked the homeless population about their pets. Shantae Smith is one of the count's coordinators.

  • Shantae Smith:

    We heard about the increasing number of pets on the streets experiencing homelessness with their humans. So we started asking the question.

  • Samie Gebers:

    They wanted to find out about the number of pets on the streets and if those pets were service animals. The numbers won't be out until the fall, but it's clear that pets have a huge impact on the lives of some homeless people.

  • Dena Figueroa:

    I have had him since he was a fuzzball. He was like that big. He's saved my life. Me and him been homeless. We have been all the way around with each other. We can't do it without each other.

  • Samie Gebers:

    Homeless for a number of years, Dena Figueroa says that Sammy is her companion, and, many times, her reason to find food and shelter every day.

  • Dena Figueroa:

    So, I really appreciate you're doing.

  • Cheryl King-Wade:

    You are very welcome.

  • Samie Gebers:

    Figueroa and other homeless pet owners depend on people like Cheryl King-Wade. King-Wade travels around the city full-time, running a nonprofit out of her pet supply vehicle, bringing everything from food to toys.

  • Cheryl King-Wade:

    Does she have a collar on?

  • Dena Figueroa:

    You're the best.

  • Cheryl King-Wade:

    Thank you. I'm an ugly crier.

  • Samie Gebers:

    King-Wade understands that even for people who struggle with their own needs, having a pet actually gives them the incentive to keep moving forward.

  • Cheryl King-Wade:

    Everyone deserves someone. And for a lot of people, that someone is their dog.

  • Samie Gebers:

    For "PBS NewsHour," I'm Samie Gebers with Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix.

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