There's been a good deal of media interest in the West Burnside Portland Rescue Mission over recent weeks, with Christmas approaching, and the cold weather setting in—cameras from KGW and Fox 12 have been spotted outside by this reporter on rides past the shelter over the last seven days. But one homeless woman says she's troubled at having been treated inconsistently after the cameras stopped rolling.
This is Princess H, with her dog Sevie. The H stands for "homeless," she says. The nickname was given to her in Arizona a few years back, and she guesses it's almost as common a street name as "wolf, shadow and bear." But she likes it. "I can be a royal pain in the you know what," she jokes. Sevie, meanwhile, got her name on June 17th, when Princess rescued her from being dragged off by the humane society. She's a friendly five-year-old black lab/pit bull cross.
Princess has been living at the SAFE women's shelter on 5th and Burnside since September. She went to the Rescue Mission last Thursday, when she says there were news cameras outside, and was able to sit in the chapel with Sevie to keep warm. She went back the next day, and again the day after that, she says, when news cameras were still hanging around, and there was no problem with her being able to sit down and warm up, chat with people and have Sevie around. Then on Tuesday this week, she was told in no uncertain terms that she couldn't bring Sevie inside.
"It's just the lack of consistency, with wanting to look good when the media's around, and then not giving a flip when they're not there. It's kind of annoying," she says. "When the news is there it's okay for you to come inside and snuggle up with your dog, but once the donations are rolling in, it's a different story."
Princess' situation is illustrative of the barriers faced by many homeless people with dogs—which can often be a barrier to obtaining services, or even a warm place to sit. She has called the humane society twice to try to arrange emergency board for Sevie in the cold weather, "but I don't have a cellphone so they can't call me back."
"We do have a policy that animals aren't allowed into the facility," says Rescue Mission spokesman Bill Miller. "I have to admit that there's been so much activity down there over the weekend that we've had bigger concerns than policing whether somebody is coming in with an animal, but perhaps when it's quieter we would work hard to enforce it."
"But it's really got nothing to do with the TV cameras," Miller continues. "And I hope Princess understands that."
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