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In a city where 8.4 million call home, more than 52,000 people sleep in a homeless shelter and at least 3,200 additional people sleep on the streets of New York City. For many, the only emotional support, stability and unconditional love they receive comes from the loyal pets that stay close to them during their hardships. But this bond isn't always easy. Fortunately there is help.
At the intersection of human and animal welfare you will find a New York City-based grassroots organization known as Collide. Operating in Manhattan, a devoted team of volunteers work to serve the transient community of New York City, specifically offering free services for companion animals of the homeless in the form of food, clothing, licensing and medical care.
The nonprofit was founded by Heidi Powers in 2010, an active member of Grafitti church, the home of Collide as well as a long-time Lower East Side fixture known for providing impressive social services within the community - everything from English as Second Language (ESL) classes to computer labs to a clothing closet (free clothing to those in need and free business attire for those reentering the work force) and free lunches in front of Tompkins Square Park on Saturday afternoons.
Based on the principles of her faith, Collide is inspired by love and motivated in its belief to help and serve the underserved. Although affiliated with a church, the relationships with Collide's clients are non-denominational and all are welcome, with its main purpose being to improve the quality of life of both person and pet.
"The trust our clients place in us to help them keep their pets healthy is something that means everything to me," say Jeff Latzer, one of about a dozen volunteers who make up Collide. Latzer's role requires him to work not only with pets but their human counterparts as well, serving meals, working fundraisers and gathering pet food for clients to leave with after visits. He considers his love for animals and understanding of the importance of human-pet relationships to be the very thing that allows both he and Collide to connect with their clients.