"My name is Robert, I'm 47 years old, I have a family, a career, a master's degree, a pet – and I'm homeless."
In a video by Sacramento's Front Street Animal Shelter posted on Wednesday, Sacramentan Robert sits in a chair and solemnly describes his heartbreaking situation, choking up at times.
Robert adopted his pet – Meaty, a pit bull-type pup – from Front Street several months ago when he still had a home, according to a Front Street Facebook post. Then he was evicted.
"Because few homeless shelters allow dogs, he’s been sleeping in his car with Meaty laying on his chest," Front Street wrote. "He refused to take shelter, because he didn’t want Meaty to be cold and alone."
"I think that pets are very important to homeless people," Robert says in the video. "They're their companion."
"I mean, who could resist a big lover like that?" he says as Meaty jumps up to give him kisses.
Robert came to the shelter to try to find a foster for Meaty until the family found suitable housing.
By the time filming was completed, Front Street's shelter manager Gina Knepp was so touched by Robert and Meaty's story that she paid for three nights at a dog-friendly hotel to keep them together, Front Street reported.
Robert and Meaty got even better news later in the week: Thanks to the outpouring of support from the community, a rental home had been found for the family.
With housing and rental costs in the region rising, Robert and Meaty are not alone in their struggles.
A total of 42,913 people entered the lottery for 7,000 slots on the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency’s waiting list for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, formerly known as Section 8, this year.
Sacramento saw a 9 percent increase in average rent for an apartment when comparing March 2017 to March 2018, according to RentCafé, an apartment listing service. Average rent is $1,283; average rent in 2017 was $1,177.
With few homeless shelters accepting pets, more animals and families need help.
"I have lots of questions on how we can solve this problem, but I think primarily No. 1 for me right now is reaching out to our community, people that live in Sacramento, to agree to open up their homes for a pet – whether it's a week, a month or three months – while their human being transitions into permanent housing and gets back on their feet again," Knepp said.
"A big thanks to everyone who has agreed to help foster dogs just like Meaty in the future, the need is huge and the purpose is critical."
To foster an animal at Front Street, click here.