This is a bonus episode of our podcast, Smogland Radio. You can find all the episodes on Apple Podcasts or any other podcasting app, and you can find our associated articles on the Smogland Radio page of our website.

Most Sunday nights, Jamel will make a nice meal for himself and Daisy, and they’ll sit down to watch the football together.

Daisy is a 14-year-old beagle. She’s curious and stubborn, but loyal and super affectionate.

Right now, Jamel’s living in a semi-converted garage. And, like thousands of Los Angeles residents who are unhoused or precariously housed, Jamel is looking for a better and more stable place to live – but he’s been turned away from housing because he refuses to be separated from Daisy. 

Jamel found the place he’s currently living by chance. It belongs to a man who Jamel knew from walking Daisy around the neighborhood.

It’s not ideal. There are rodents; the summer and winter are both brutal. And it feels precarious. Like any moment, he and Daisy are going to have to pick up and leave.

“I’m kind of dreading the day that this place is going to be taken from us,” Jamel said. “That they’re gonna knock on the door and say, ‘Hey, you guys gotta find another place to go.’”

Jamel grew up — mostly – in Harlem. He still remembers what breakfast smelled like at his grandmother’s house, on 151st Street between Amsterdam and Broadway.

“Oh my goodness, I can smell it right now,” Jamel said. 

“I can hear my grandmother in the kitchen. I mean, she had everything going and I’m walking into the kitchen and I’m just, you know, pulling my nanny’s dress, just ‘whatcha cooking nannie, whatcha cookin’. And she gave me a taste of bacon or you know, eggs, there’s hash browns, there’s biscuits, oh man she’d have ham… And then after she cooked breakfast, we would all come to the table and eat breakfast like a family every Sunday. Get you hungry!”

Jamel moved out to California when he was 19, he said. And for a while, his living situation was stable. He was working a couple different jobs – he’d lived in the same apartment for about 10 years. And then, he got evicted. He wanted to stay in the same community, in Orange County, but he found he’d been priced out.

“So that left me practically homeless,” Jamel said.

Over the last few months, Jamel has been keeping an audio diary for LA Public Press, to give us a sense of what day-to-day life is like for him and Daisy. 

An estimated 10% of unsheltered Angelenos are pet owners. But many shelters and landlords won’t accept animals – leaving folks to make the impossible choice between safe housing and an animal who’s often also their closest companion.

Since 2019, the California Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded a total of almost $24 million to shelters. The money is supposed to help them provide food and basic veterinary care for pets owned by people experiencing homelessness, and bring folks into shelters that otherwise wouldn’t receive services. 

Thirty-two shelters in LA County were given a share of the fund, about $350,000 last year. And it’s uncertain if there will be more funding in future. It’s a drop in the bucket, when we’re talking about a major problem for a huge number of Angelenos.

Plus the money is for shelters — not permanent housing.

Reporter Clare Wiley collaborated with Jamel to bring us this snapshot of his life with Daisy.

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