Facing eviction – Dog crate training issues?

We recently took in a one year old lab who’s previous owner abandoned him and left town. A neighbor called us and we decided to adopt him.

After we got him back up to a healthy weight and he started getting sociable (about three months) he started crying / whining whenever we leave the house, to the point where we can be several houses away and still hear him and people have started complaining. He’s also started destroying things in our house and scratching the paint off the front door of the house when we’re gone.

Faced with eviction due to complaints and damage to our rental property, we purchased a crate. Since we didn’t do much research first and we’re on our last warning with the landlords about the damage to the walls and door, we forced him into it the first couple of days when we had to leave the house. That didn’t help the crying, but it did solve the damage issue.

Since then we’ve found out that’s not the correct way to do things (we’re first time dog owners), we’re trying to do things properly. We’ve got the cage open with his favorite toys and his food and water in the back of it, and he hasn’t eaten or drank anything all day because he won’t go near it. Yesterday my wife gave up and moved his food and water outside the crate, but we’ve been advised that he’ll go in it when he gets hungry enough and to stick to our guns.

This has got us both feeling terrible, but everyone we’ve talked to swears dogs won’t starve themselves and to keep with it or he’ll learn he can go hungry long enough and we’ll back down.

How do we undo the damage here? If we don’t get this resolved and get him to quit crying, which was the purpose of the crate originally, trying to give him his own place where he feels safe to lower his anxiety, we’re homeless on 02/28. Either that, or we have to give up the dog to the pound as nobody else will take him, and I’m fairly confident as overpopulated as the animal shelters in Phoenix are that he’ll be put down.
There are two specific questions here:

How do we get him to like the crate? He won’t go in it, or near it. Its in the middle of the house and he gives it a wide berth, to the point of not eating to avoid it. I think he’s angry at us, because he’s become more destructive since we’ve started this.

How do we stop the crying? Protecting the house and getting kicked out anyways isn’t going to help much.

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