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Shawn's Mission Success Story

Shawn had visited the Goodwill Veterans Services Program office multiple times. Todd, the program manager, was helping him with a disability claim that Shawn planned to submit to the VA. During this visit, Shawn seemed different; Todd and Randy engaged him in a conversation. Shawn noted that he was now homeless and was living in his car with his two cats. During the conversation he mentioned that he had not provided food or water for the cats in eight days. He saw the look of concern from both Todd and Randy and gave further explanation: “I can’t feed them because I don’t have a litter box in my car. Don’t worry. I have special powers. I can keep them alive.”

Todd and Randy were now very concerned. Todd explained that Shawn needed to provide both food and water for the cats, and told him he was going to make a litter box. He left for a moment and came back with a box he had lined with a plastic garbage bag and filled with some sand. He told Shawn he would put the box in the car for him. Shawn agreed. Todd wanted to get a look at the cats to make sure they were okay. He placed the box in the back seat and saw the cats hiding under the front seat.

When Todd returned, he and Randy had an honest conversation with Shawn. They explained that they knew that Shawn was about to submit a VA claim for his disability. They explained that if Shawn went into treatment for his mental health, he would have a stronger claim. Todd explained that they were also working on housing. Shawn would not be able to take his cats with him when he checked himself in for treatment nor would he be likely to take them with him when he was placed into housing. Todd asked Shawn if he would consider allowing him to take the cats to a shelter, where they would be cared for until Shawn was able to reunite with them. Shawn said he would think about it but that now he needed to leave. He got into his car and drove away.

Todd and Randy were troubled. They had been very frank with Shawn and wondered if they had scared him off. They feared for Shawn and for his cats. Three days later, Shawn returned. He was in tears. He said that he knew the way he was feeling wasn’t “right.” He thought maybe he was crazy and asked if Todd could help him. With relief, Todd told Shawn he wasn’t crazy – he was just struggling, like so many others. And, yes, he would help. He asked Shawn to get in his car and follow him to Centerstone, where they would meet with someone in the Crisis Stabilization Unit and ask for a bed and treatment.


Shawn followed Todd to Centerstone. Todd stayed with Shawn during the intake assessment so that he would feel more comfortable. Centerstone had a bed for Shawn and they were ready to admit him now for treatment. Before Todd left, he asked Shawn for permission to take the cats to the shelter that would house them until Shawn could reclaim them. Shawn agreed.

By now, it was early evening and no one would be at the shelter. Todd collected the cats from Shawn’s car and brought them home with him. They were thin but not emaciated. That night, the cats dined on the finest canned cat food Todd could find in his pantry. They ate a lot and had a peaceful night’s sleep.


First thing in the morning, Todd called Hagen’s Pet Resort. The resort agreed to care for the cats until Shawn was in a position to care for them again but they first would need to be vaccinated for rabies. Todd put the cats in his car once more and drove them to a place he knew: the Street Dog Coalition, a group that provides free vaccinations to the pets of people who are homeless. A few minutes later, they were all back in the car and on the way to Hagen’s Pet Resort.


Now Shawn was getting the treatment he needed and his cats were safe. As usual, the Goodwill Veteran’s Services Program team had gone above and beyond the call of duty to do the right thing.

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