Meet Misfit, the amazing traveling kitten.
Just 4 months old, she already has visited California, Michigan and Las Vegas, her only home the protective arms of Melyssa Wcislo.
"I can't leave her at home. I don't have one of those," Wcislo, 27, said Wednesday morning while cradling the tortoiseshell cat in front of a mobile animal clinic outside Cashman Center.
The two had spent the night on nearby downtown Las Vegas streets, then lined up early for free vaccinations for Misfit. Like scores of other pets hanging out with their people at Project Homeless Connect, she wouldn't have gotten the shots otherwise.
The annual event brings together for one day dozens of city, county and social service agencies that help the homeless. Thousands attend in search of jobs, housing, free food and clothing, haircuts, dental screenings, legal help and other services.
Since 2006, their pets also have gotten free health services including vaccinations and medications.
"There's such a need for it," said Colleen Duffy, a recreation specialist for Clark County Parks and Recreation who helps organize the pet area.
Regular vet services are often out of the question, financially speaking, for those who come to the event.
"They have to feed themselves and their families," she said.
Kimberly Brown, 52, said a vet visit for her two Chihuahuas, Precious and Babie, is a luxury she can't afford.
Until six months ago, the three were living in an underground drainage tunnel near south Las Vegas Boulevard. She recently had quit a devastating meth habit.
Now, thanks to a local charity, she's living in an apartment and gets counseling and vocational training. She has been sober seven months. But there's still no money for the vet.
"I'm on food stamps, but I always make sure I feed them first," she said of her 2-year-old dogs.
Volunteer veterinarians and veterinary nursing students staffed the mobile clinic. They saw about 100 pets during the course of the day.
"It's a great experience for them, and it's good for the animals," said Dennis Lopez, director of Pima Medical Institute's veterinary nursing program. "Some of them have never seen a vet before."
Ruth Garner, 36, said her Chihuahua Jodi hadn't been to the vet since she got him from a friend two and a half years ago.
"If I could have, I would have," said the mother of three, who works as a housekeeper. "Everything I make goes to the bills and the kids."
Those who visited the event's pet area also could pick up free pet food or have their animals microchipped.
"If they don't have an address, they can put their phone numbers or the date of the event" on the microchip, Duffy said. "If their pets get lost, it helps them get them back."
Wcislo hadn't decided whether to get a microchip for Misfit. They and Wcislo's boyfriend were planning to leave Las Vegas and head to California "as soon as I have $50 in my hand," she said.
They had been drifting from place to place since Wcislo lost custody of her young son nine months ago, she said.
"Staying in one place drives me crazy."
Misfit keeps Wcislo company wherever she goes, providing her with a sense of home even while on the road.
"She keeps me alive," she said.
An estimated 9,432 people are homeless in Clark County on any given day, according to a large-scale homeless count done in January.
About 2,700 people attended Wednesday's Project Homeless Connect, county officials said. Hundreds of volunteers helped set up, take down and staff the event, which is coordinated by the Nevada Homeless Alliance and the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition's Committee on Homelessness.
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com.