House of Soul
An opportunity came up in March for me to work with the Humane Society of the North Bay in Vallejo, California. I was hired to do training and support work, and specifically to assist the Director, Michael Rios, with the overall shelter improvement plan. Timing was good for me, so I took it. I’d never spent a minute in Vallejo prior, so I arrived in the city and almost crashed twice for the waterfront views will knock you out. I found my way to the shelter and there it was – 2 acres of animals, the nicest humans, and a big job ahead.
Michael took me out to lunch. I’m in Vallejo for three hours, and he takes me to the House of Soul. Jesus is real my friends.
There I had chicken fried steak, green beans, mac and cheese and cornbread in an eatery so down home and cool it felt like a hug. Customers kept coming and going with to-go orders on fried chicken while we ate and got to know each other. Community places like this, make me happy. Neighbors eat with neighbors, sitting next to strangers like me. I give it five stars.
Meanwhile, back at the animal shelter, there’s a new staff, tons of goals, no rational amount of resources, running on prayers and fumes. This group of people held together an impossible load of animals, with very little, doing the best they could to help as many pets as humanly possible. I’m in love.
Vallejo is colorful and diverse, full of historic homes, Queen Anne, Italianate, the works. Vallejo was the state capitol in the 1850’s – was home to native American tribes such as the Coastal Miwoks. The city has a bustling Ferry terminal with wine tour buses waiting outside. This is a city where residents keep it real. There’s poverty and suffering and people struggling. In Vallejo, you’ll see citizens helping citizens, all day, every day. If you do something stupid, the community will handle you. Chances are your ass will wind up on “Vallejo Happenings” on Facebook. God help you.
The animal shelter project is humming along. We are beating expectations, working together, solving problems and building bridges, even with many miles to go. A week ago I got the Asilomar report for June and HSNB did 100% on live release. Here’s a shelter with minus nothing, working on thousands of animals a year, achieving. Extraordinary. Blows doors on the no kill is expensive argument. The board, staff, volunteers, the citizens – deserve a standing ovation. It’s basic – but there’s a heartbeat of goodness, sincerity and sacrifice within.
Vallejo loves her animals. Perhaps Vallejo residents know something about overcoming adversity, doing your best with what you have.
If you want to see a scrappy enterprise, hopping with spirit, come see us in Vallejo. If you want the best lunch you ever had, soul food is just up the street. We got dogs and cats and kittens waiting for a home, in a place trying it’s hardest to shelter for their community.
The House of Soul, indeed.