Last century’s public housing neighborhoods were built to be isolated. This meant that those living there had to make do without the regular animal welfare services that more privileged areas have come to take for granted. Sadly, when families saw animals trying to survive or dying on the streets, there was no one to turn to. All too common have been animals existing in benign neglect and the never-ending litters of puppies and kittens. If these situations have been tough for adults to stomach, just imagine what it’s like for children who are learning that this is normal. But, one day things began to change . . .
Our Story Began With Public Housing Children
A few youths in Columbine Homes began asking for help with animals. Whenever they rescued a dog or a cat, we were there to support them and arranged for free veterinary services for their own pets. On other days, we made field trips to veterinary clinics to learn about the profession. Plus, when Jane Goodall came to town, they visited with her. She told them that they had an important role to play . . .
And Continued with Public Housing Employees
Next, in South Lincoln Homes, a public housing maintenance man was caring for abandoned and stray cats and dogs, and needed help. We spayed and neutered everyone and even found homes. In these early years, we worked hand-in-hand with public housing managers on figuring out solutions to long-entrenched animal situations.
Nearby, and for years, Westwood Homes residents had been hiding their unregistered pets. The manager genuinely wanted families to keep their pets yet comply with pet policies – not an easy task – and a big change to neighborhood norms. To do that, families needed a few things – veterinary services and a veterinary certificate – that they could ill afford. We formed veterinary partnerships and gave residents what they needed to live in public housing with their pet – all for free. Sure enough, families began putting their pets on the lease.
Soon, Public Housing Residents Took Over . . .
The South Lincoln maintenance worker told a resident who was caring for abandoned animals near her apartment. We asked her what she needed, then did it. She began to convince her neighbors to take better care of their pets. Plus, she promised that we would be there if ever they could no longer keep their pet. Every year fewer and fewer families abandoned their animals on the streets. Word spread to North Lincoln Homes where abandoned animals were abounding. Public housing residents and employees worked together, and we kept supporting them with services whenever they needed.
. . . And Haven’t Stopped
Out of these four Denver public housing neighborhoods – and together with public housing children, employees, and residents – came the birth of programs tailored specifically for public housing. Soon, word spread throughout Denver public housing properties by the people who live and work there – and we’ve kept up supporting them thanks to our long-term funding partnerships.
And Here We Are Years Later
In all – over 500 mothers, grandmothers, fathers, children, aunts, uncles, cousins and supported by public housing managers, resident service coordinators, administrative assistants, and maintenance workers – have saved and changed the lives of over 800 animals. Entire neighborhoods have been changing too. None of us ever dreamed this big. In honor of the public housing children, residents, and employees who bring veterinary services to their neighborhoods, we renamed the organization after them – Docs On The Blocks.