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Dog Pound Gives Homeless Shelter

March 20, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The doghouse isn’t such a bad place when it’s really a furnished room with a skylight, television and art on the walls.

That’s why the agency that runs a new pound with those amenities is offering to open its doors to about a dozen homeless people, who aren’t likely to find such luxurious digs.

``This just seemed like another thing we could do,″ said Richard Avanzino, director of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ``Someone can come here if they want to get off the streets for the night, and the dogs get something they need: human companionship.″

Avanzino said Thursday at least one social service agency was considering his idea.

The pound wouldn’t provide meals, showers, clothing or counseling for its human tenants _ just a warm place to sleep.

But it’s quite a place.

The $7 million Maddie’s Pet Adoption Center, named after the dog of a benefactor, opened a month ago.

Along with the TV and art in each dog’s ``apartment,″ the rooms are soundproof, and special ventilation systems keep odors to a minimum.

Avanzino wants to set up cots in about a dozen apartments and let homeless people stay between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Critics called the idea well-intentioned but misguided because it diminishes the seriousness of the problems homeless people have.

``This was not something that was set up for and designed for people. It was built for animals,″ said Paul Boden, director of the Coalition on Homelessness. ``It just turned out that this facility is better set up than anything we’re setting up for people.″

Avanzino said he’s just trying to help.

``This isn’t for everybody. We’re not for 2,000 people,″ he said. ``But this could be a real option for a dozen people.″

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