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Local veteran struggling with homelessness finds safe haven in cats

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 18:05:18-04

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Tyson Baeten spends his days inside Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary helping to take care of more than 60 cats.

"Animals are typically a very good judge of character," Baeten said.

Recently, Baeten was named Safe Haven's new event coordinator. It's the type of position he's always wanted.

"It's like a dream come true," Baeten said. "I wanted to be a vet as a kid and this is probably as close as I'm going to get to it."

With a new job, things are going well for Baeten right now. But he said days weren't always so bright.

"Late last year, I had to leave my old job because of mental health issues," Baeten said. "I'm a U.S. veteran from the Navy. I'd been diagnosed with depression. It was not a good fit for me."

Baeten was born in Green Bay and served in the Navy from 1997 to 2005. Once he left the military, Baeten said he moved back home.

The last few years haven't been easy for Baeten, who's been homeless for the last 2.5 years.

Difficult days drew him to Safe Haven about six months ago.

“A friend of mine had talked about how he would come here and pet some cats," Baeten said. "So I decided to just start coming, and I came basically every single day and it was very therapeutic for me.”

Eventually, he was asked to become an official volunteer.

"Shortly after that, one of my employees told me Ty was homeless. He lives at the shelter," said Elizabeth Feldhausen, Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary founder. "I just couldn't believe it."

Feldhausen said she saw how great Baeten was with animals, and when an animal care position opened up, she didn't hesitate to offer him the job.

“He really, really cares about the animals. You can tell with every interaction that he has with them," Feldhausen said. "I think he's really going to go somewhere someday. He's just a really great person. He's doing a really great job and I'm really happy that we found him."

Baeten was recently promoted to event coordinator. In addition to planning activities, he helps feed the cats, give them medications, clean litter boxes and mop floors. Baeten said he still pets and plays with the cats in his down time.

"It almost doesn't even feel like I have depression anymore," Baeten said. "I just love being here."

The VA is helping Baeten find permanent housing. Baeten said he has applications in for area apartments and hopes to move somewhere in a month.

"He's actually got a list of cats he's going to take home once he get a cat-friendly apartment. So I'm really looking forward to that," Feldhausen said.

Safe Haven is expanding to another location and plans to have a cat cafe with apartments above it. Feldhausen said they hope Baeten may mange the facility once it's finished and maybe rent out one of the apartments.

"I love my job. This is almost the fulfillment of a childhood dream. I wish I would've had this job 20 years ago," Baeten said.

A new job and passion all wrapped into one, paving the way for Baeten to write a new chapter in life.