On a trip to New York, Genevieve Frederick saw a homeless man sitting with his dog, untethered by a leash.
She wondered how the man could provide for his dog when he wasn't even able to provide a home for himself. This visceral reaction is what propelled Genevieve to devote her life to aiding the pets of our country's homeless population.
That was 2008. Eight years later, Genevieve and her daughter, Renee, run a nationwide organization called Pets of the Homeless.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are up to 3.5 million people experiencing homelessness in a given year. Roughly 10 percent of homeless people are pet owners, leaving potentially hundreds of thousands of homeless pets throughout the country.
So far, Genevieve and her team have provided food and emergency medical care to nearly 13,000 of them.
Through interacting with the owners of these pets, they've learned something crucial about homeless people: What they lack in their ability to provide vital resources like food, shelter and medicine for their pets, they reciprocate tenfold in love.
In telling their story, we learned the scope of the stigma against homeless pet owners. Many Americans are repulsed by the idea of a homeless person with a pet, believing these dogs and cats are unjustly kept as a ploy to guilt people into giving them money.
The reality is a pet is most often the only companion a homeless person has left. It may be the only connection he or she feels to a living being. The bond between them is unbreakable, tied together by experiences that simply cannot be understood without having lived through them yourself.
Serving an overlooked population is far from easy work. Communicating with the people they are trying to help can be tough, as the homeless often don't have easy access to phones and computers. Many of the women they help are victims of domestic violence who fled abusive situations with nowhere to go.
Genevieve and Renee see no end to the work they're doing, and that only serves as motivation to continue. As Renee said when we spoke with her,
Homelessness is never going away; there will always be someone that needs our help.