WASHINGTON – When a disaster is imminent, some people don’t want to leave their homes without their pets. But emergency shelters are providing more than hot meals and soft cots these days. Some shelters make accommodations for furry friends.
An emergency response trailer located at the Lee District Rec Center in Alexandria, handles and shuttles the pets of guests. It has food and water and the interior is lined with cages.
“Animal control is here,” says Fairfax County Spokeswoman Belinda Buescher.”They will safely take the pets, take care of them until it is safe for the residents to return home.”
While this emergency shelter also provides warm meals, showers and a comfy cot, a guest also will find comfort with a pair of sympathetic ears. The Lee District Rec Center has a special member of the staff – Father John Vitko.
Vitko is with Fairfax County’s Community Chaplain Corp and is there to identify people who aren’t coping well with the stress of an emergency and might be in need of some extra help.
“People are amazingly resilient. But sometimes the body and the mind protects them like a circuit breaker against things they can’t handle at that moment and they need more serious help,” Vitko says. “And then we refer them to mental health.”