On a daily/nightly basis, someone I know in Trinidad assists numerous homeless individuals inhabiting public spaces within a nine-kilometre radius of her home. As she has no desire for recognition or reward and prefers to remain anonymous, I will refer to her here as "Sammie" (short for "Samaritan").
Recently Sammie contacted me to tell me about several of her street-dweller cases. The recipients of her kindness are largely unseen, ignored and/or forgotten by the world that revolves around them. With occasional valuable support from kindred spirits, Sammie feeds and helps the homeless, often into the night, until curfew drives her home.
To illustrate the nature and the magnitude of Sammie’s work, I will recount some of the welfare cases. Names of locations and individuals will be omitted.
B and S were never apart, except when B went in search of other liaisons. S’s mood changed on those rare occasions as she waited patiently for his return. Despite being "macho" and street-wise, he was a lovable, trusting, affectionate soul. She was far more reserved.
Three weeks ago, when Sammie took B for emergency surgery, a visibly pregnant S had cried, not knowing if or when he would return to protect her and their unborn offspring. In their two years of being on the streets, it had been hard for her to trust anyone, even Sammie, who understood that S would come to trust in her own time.
That day came recently when Sammie went to check on S. Uncharacteristically, she approached Sammie’s vehicle, straining with the weight of her swollen stomach. She allowed Sammie to take her for a medical checkup at the facility where B was recuperating. The promise of this reunion was all it took for her to start trusting again.
Two black youngsters hang around on the roadside, endangered by traffic. Despite the fact that they have a home, the younger one is malnourished. Sammie occasionally carries food for them.
His large, brown emaciated body makes him a shadow of what he must have been in his heyday. The youngster who hangs around with him grieves for his brother, who was killed by a truck.
Sammie helps to clean the wounds that result from street fights over limited resources. She uses her money, sometimes often forgoing her own needs, to ensure that the homeless are nourished and reasonably healthy.
Individuals working in this particular area accuse Sammie of feeding the rats. They constantly ask her for cash and threaten her with violence upon realising that her priority is the homeless. To avoid confrontation, she now prepackages food and reduces time spent at that venue.
The homeless individuals Sammie helps are dogs (mainly) and cats.
Does knowing this change the way you feel about the cases mentioned (assuming that you thought all along "the homeless" were humans)?
The following list mentions some of the almost 60 dogs/cats that Sammie feeds daily, at different locations...
Seven dogs. Now six. Pregnant female has been moved to a safer location.
A dog owned by a student, and a pregnant female.
Four dogs, six cats.
Three kittens, seven juvenile pups, one white pup (recently rehomed), approximately seven cats.
Four dogs (formerly five, before one got hit by car). Approximately twelve cats/kittens.
Three dumped cats
Two dogs (once, three). Man took a piece of wood and shoved it down the throat of the third dog, who suffered for three days before disappearing completely.
Six dogs, three owned by an elderly woman who keeps them in her tiny house along with five kittens, one of which she keeps in her shirt pocket.
Two dogs on a hill, uncared for by owner. They are joined by one dog from higher up the street who sees Sammie’s vehicle at feeding time and comes down to eat.
Pack of dogs with various cuts, some from fights, some inflicted by humans. Threats of poisoning have been made.
Woman in small house who loves her dogs, but cannot afford to feed them or herself at times.
In addition to the "Sammies" of this nation, we need strategic, sustainable programmes in place (eg government-funded spay/neuter initiatives, state-of-the-art shelters, etc.) to cater to the welfare and humane control of TT’s homeless animals.