UPDATE: This story is written by Karim Shamsi-Basha from Alabama NewsCenter. Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com/
Most shelters do not allow animals to accompany the homeless they serve. Many homeless people receive love primarily from their dogs and cats.
A paradox, a contradiction, or a Catch-22; no matter what you call it, it is a problem in the Mobile area and around the country. Many homeless people choose to live in the woods rather than give up their pets to stay in a shelter.
There is another problem the less fortunate face: transportation.
Most cannot afford cars, and bikes often break down. How will they be able to hold on to a job if they can’t even get there?
Enter the two Jennifers.
Jennifer Greene and Jennifer Eiland stepped up to solve both problems.
Greene, a marine biologist, first created Delta Bike Project, a nonprofit community bicycle shop dedicated to promoting and improving access to bicycle transportation.
A year later, Greene and Eiland, a veterinarian, combined forces to form Delta Dogs, a nonprofit, community-supported organization that helps provide healthcare to the pets of people in need.
“About 75 percent of the people we help are homeless who use their bike as the primary mode of transportation,” Greene said. “What we offer is totally free. Their bikes are everything to them, especially if they use it to get to a job. It is critical they get them fixed. We found out this service has never existed.”
Housing hope for transportation
Delta Bike Project now exists in a white square building at 561 Saint Francis Street in Mobile. There is a big space for repairing bikes and the yard outside is full of them.
It didn’t take long for Greene to see the rewards of her work. About a year after they opened, a man named Randall walked in.
“He was a nice guy and came here straight from jail, worked 5 hours for a bike, and rode away,” Greene said. “A few weeks later, he came back and said he had gotten a full-time job at the shipyard. Now he runs maintenance for The Salvation Army, and his whole life has changed by having reliable bicycle transportation. It is a great sense of satisfaction to help turn a life around.”
As if one nonprofit wasn’t enough, the Delta Dogs project spun out of Greene’s and Eiland’s friendship. They realized that the homeless had nowhere to go for pet care.
“I have always worked with rescue groups to help provide the best care for pets of the unfortunate,” said Eiland, a veterinarian at Ark Animal Clinic and Rehabilitation Center in Mobile. “When Jenn (Greene) recognized the need in the community, it gave us a chance to give back. The response has been overwhelming. We can help the homeless whose pets are everything to them. And we promote spay and neuter services.”
If you are down on your luck in Mobile and need transportation to get to your job, Delta Bike Project can help.
And when you live in the woods because you love your animal too much to give it up and move to a shelter, Delta Dogs can help.
The two Jennifers are more than willing.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play.
Award-winning photojournalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at firstname.lastname@example.org.