This is a topic I've had a hard time wrapping my head around. On one hand I worry that people who can't take care of themselves very well can't take care of a pet. On the other hand I certainly understand how much a pet can mean in times of trouble. So I have never mentally resolved the dilemma of homeless people having pets.
It came up again with a recent report on the groundbreaking for a veterinary clinic in Eugene, Oregon, to treat the pets of people who are homeless or living in poverty. Pro-Bone-O clinic has been open twice-monthly for free veterinary services, but they can't provide surgeries or take x-rays, and they have to operate on a lottery system because they can't treat everyone in the few hours the clinic is open. They now have a modular classroom donated by the local school district and a piece of property, and hope to have a summer opening of a full-time clinic.
Kate Joost used a pooper scooper to break ground, and noted that during her 5 years of homelessness her now-17-year-old dog Maggie helped her through the ordeal. Seventeen! Dogs in posh mansions don't live that long.
So I guess I have finally decided on the side of the homeless. I well remember how I rushed to acquire my first dog as soon as I moved out of my parents' house. The mayor of Eugene must have felt pretty much the same way, as she said at the groundbreaking that her parents never allowed pets but she hasn't been without one since being on her own.
If you see a homeless person with a pet, maybe you can afford to buy a spare bag of dog food and give it as a holiday gift. I know I will.