The Heart of Nashua with Joan Stylianos; It is in the shelter of each other where people live

I’m sorry, but I like to think we’re a better society than this. Please allow me my two cents to expound on the recent plight of a homeless woman who was living in her car and arrested for keeping her dog in her parked Volvo for hours during the recent bitter temperatures. It could have been any city in New Hampshire, but it happened to be Portsmouth.

Come to find out, the woman probably believed she was doing the best she could for her border collie by keeping the poor animal out of the single-digit January weather conditions while she was at work.

A number of concerned people had seen the dog in the car on several occasions and called the police. I believe these residents did the right thing, but I also wonder if we dropped the ball on this one.

The woman, in her 50s, was charged with animal cruelty by Portsmouth police, and the pet was removed and taken to the N.H. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in nearby Stratham.

I admit I don’t know all the details of the story, or if the dog was always a companion or if the woman had come to own the dog only recently.

I don’t know the woman’s circumstances or how she became homeless, but my heart goes out to her, and maybe yours does too.

I hope she was offered emergency shelter from the bitter cold and assistance for supportive housing and could get her pet returned to her in the future. And I hope the cruelty charges against her can be dropped.

With the little information I had, I asked Nashua Police Chief Andrew Lavoie about the woman’s predicament.

Lavoie suggested the woman’s situation falls into a gray area, and he could not say whether Portsmouth police did the right thing or the wrong thing in the case. He reminded me that we have laws to protect animals because they cannot protect themselves.

“You have the right to choose to live in your car as long as the vehicle is parked legally, for example. You can choose the duty of care for yourself, but you have the duty of care to an animal in your charge.”

Homelessness is a tough obstacle, difficult to look at and not easy to solve. It’s not a huge a problem here in the Gate City, but it happens — it’s sad and concerning, Lavoie said. His officers try to encourage the homeless to get into the shelters we have across the community. Unfortunately, that entreaty is not always followed by those who live on the streets.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to homelessness, but I wish we all cared more about those living alone and struggling on the outskirts of society and often doing the best they can. We need more realistic options. Housing is expensive in Nashua, and renting an apartment here is crazy-high.

The numbers tell the story. Last December, the average rent for an apartment in the Gate City was $1,388. That represented a 3.67 percent increase over 2016.

Like most cities around the state, there are long waiting lists and scant availability for low-income housing here. I believe our shelters and transitional housing places are also doing a wonderful job, but these organizations need more funding to keep their facilities and programs up and running.

Money is always the issue, isn’t it?

There’s a beautiful old Irish proverb worth mentioning here: It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.

Ms. Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column is published weekly. She can be reached at