Source: IOL (Extract)
December 5, 2021

A Cape Town homeless man who chose life on the streets over giving up his dogs, dreams of opening the “Barking Hobo” organisation which will allow destitute pet owners to seek shelter along with their animal friends.

Justin “Jay” Vos, 33, like many South Africans lost his small business as a hairstylist after the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year and was forced out of his Joburg apartment and he lost his car and caravan too.

Now Vos and his two four-legged friends, Lexi, a female Great Dane crossbreed and Prince Charles, a male Jack Russell crossbreed, live on the streets of Cape Town.

The 33-year-old, who makes a living as a psychic medium and clairvoyant, said while he has the option of living with his mother, renting an apartment or seeking out a homeless shelter, none allows him to move in with his furry friends.

“I made them (the dogs) a promise that I will never abandon them and it’s a promise which I intend to keep,” he said.

But three months ago, Vos came close to breaking that promise after he was evicted from a caravan he was renting in Gordon’s Bay. During the eviction he was arrested after refusing to comply with an eviction order and spent 72 hours at Somerset West police station. Vos also spent a week in a psychiatric facility after his arrest, only to be released and find that his dogs were taken to an animal shelter in Gordon’s Bay.

Refusing to be separated even further from his beloved dogs, Vos said he slept outside the facility for five days before the two canines were finally released to him.

The next few weeks, saw Vos wandering through Strand, Somerset West, Bellville and Kensington, looking for a place to live, before he settled in Observatory on a field. When he can, he presents psychic readings to eke out a living and feed his dogs.

“ I think the people in this community care a lot more than in any other community that I have been in in Cape Town,” he said.

“After what we have been through, we (the dogs) are bonded. These are my kids. I love these dogs more than I love people,” Vos said.

“I want to start an NPO that will help anybody on the street, regardless of whether you have a goldfish or horse, a donkey or a dog. You can come to Barking Hobo.”

Animal Welfare Society of South Africa’s (AWSSA), Allan Perrins, said the life of animals living with their homeless owners was challenging.

“Homeless people live a transient lifestyle. Without a secure residence and a lack of financial income, the dog’s food security is at risk and they may face daily challenges, such as eviction,” he said.

“I know Jay’s case and he is the exception to the rule, because his dogs are well taken care of. Homeless people have every right to the companionship of a dog which provides unconditional love and acceptance.

“However, the AWSSA would probably not approve an adoption from our facility to a homeless person, because that would not be in the best interest of the animal, which is the organisation’s primary responsibility,” he added.

The City’s mayoral committee member for community services and health, Patricia van der Ross, said: “The City is very mindful of the bonds that exist between pets and their owners, including persons who find themselves on the street.

“As pertains to the City’s Safe Spaces for street people, we have already investigated the feasibility of permitting animal keeping at these spaces through the City’s Environmental Health Service. For the moment, the City is not able to actively pursue such an option, given the many considerations both for human health but also the welfare of the animals involved. It is, however, something that we will continue to look at in the future.”

As part of his routine, Vos regularly takes out his deck of tarot cards, dog-eared from overuse, smiles as he shuffles them despite not having any clients after his cellphone was stolen recently.

As the sun sets over Cape Town, Vos settles into his two by 2m tent. Prince Charles and Lexi cautiously navigate the small space inside, respectfully allowing their pack leader to take up his spot first. He pulls little Prince Charles closer and reaches out and cradles Lexi’s large head in this hand – the connection between the trio evident to anyone taking in the scene.

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