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Pet van helps feed Gainesville homeless’ pets

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When Elizabeth Howard went to an event supporting the homeless about six years ago, she was thinking about pet food.

“I knew I wanted to do something to help the homeless people, but I’m an animal rights activist and have been for quite a while now,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Well, OK, I’ll get the pet food for the homeless people for their dogs and cats.'”

Howard started the Home Van Pet Care Project five years ago, a companion to the Home Van, a nonprofit that feeds the homeless.

She said she started with “one little bag” of pet food someone donated. Now, the Gainesville nonprofit donates 100 pounds each of dog food and cat food every week.

After following the Home Van with her own car for awhile, Howard began distributing the pet food — packed in gallon-size Ziploc bags — on Wednesdays at the library.

Howard said she isn’t sure how much longer she can sustain the program, though. The nonprofit needs more hands to pack bags of food and deliver them, she said.

“It’s a little scary right now,” she said. “I don’t know which way to go with some of this.”

Howard said although it’s hard to care for pets, the homeless need the love and companionship pets provide. She emphasized because Home Van Pet Care is a type of food bank, the food it provides is only a supplement and not enough to sustain pets.

“We try to get everybody to find out where they can get more food and how they can feed their animals well,” she said.

Kelly Price wrote this story online.

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