Tag Archives: homeless

My Dog is My Home

One of the best parts of the day is when I return to my home after a long day’s work and Izzy is there to greet me.  I think most dog owners/parents feel that way.

Now imagine that you are homeless and you have a dog (or two).  Access to a homeless shelter and other social services is out of reach because you refuse to give up your dogs.

That’s the plight of many homeless Americans and the charity My Dog is My Home is working to help them by facilitating co-sheltering projects that allow both humans and pets to be supported.

The project did a series of YouTube videos to highlight the experience of human-animal homelessness.  Here’s one of the videos:  Spirit’s story alongside his dogs, Kyya and Miniaga, in Los Angeles.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Homeless youth with pets

Homeless youth can benefit from owning pets but not without a few challenges, according to a new study from the University of Guelph.

Led by researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), the team found that homeless youth with pets are less likely to engage in potentially harmful behaviour, more likely to open up to veterinarians about their personal challenges and generally less depressed.

Homeless youth

(Photo courtesy Community Veterinary Outreach)

However, the team found that pets can make it difficult for their owners to obtain social services.

The study was published today in the journal Anthrozoӧs. 

Its findings mirror what researchers had been hearing anecdotally, said Prof. Jason Coe, Population Medicine.

“Those homeless youth with pets don’t want to risk incarceration or anything that would prevent them from being with their pets, so they are less likely to abuse alcohol or use hard drugs,” said Coe. He studies the human-animal bond and communication in veterinary care.

“We also found those without pets are three times more likely to be depressed, though we have not yet determined if this is directly relatable to having a pet.”

Among major challenges, he said, “Many shelters do not allow pets, so these youth may be limited in where they can sleep.”

Many youth are very open to discussing their struggles and issues with veterinarians, said lead author Michelle Lem, an OVC graduate.

She is the founder and director of Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO), a volunteer group providing mobile veterinary services to homeless people in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Ottawa.

“We’re able to collaborate with public health and social workers as they attempt to reach these marginalized people, essentially using the human-animal bond and veterinary care as a gateway to provide accessible social support and healthcare,” Lem said.

“So many of these youth have lost trust in people, and the animal gives them unconditional love. They will do anything for their pets, which means they are less likely to commit potentially harmful acts, but also face more challenges with accessing housing, healthcare or addiction treatment services.”

Prof. Bill O’Grady, Sociology and Anthropology, studies youth homelessness and helped design the study.

Calling for pet-friendly shelters, he said “many homeless youth are prohibited from using services offered by the shelter system because they have pets, particularly dogs. There is an opportunity here to use this information when we’re developing services and plans for young people.”

Source:  University of Guelph media release

The bond between the homeless and their pets

The Lifelines Project, based in Austin, Texas, has a mission:  it is to depict the bond between people and their pets by sharing images of the homeless with their animals.  This is done through the lens of photographer Norah Levine.

Profits from the project (mainly through sale of prints) go to support 4PAWS (“For People and Animals Without Shelter”), a program run by the Animal Trustees of Austin.  The program provides essential veterinary care to the homeless population – things like basic vaccinations, spaying and neutering.  If a homeless person’s animal needs urgent surgery, the program aims to fund these needs as well.

The Lifelines Project helps to show that responsible dog owners are not limited to those with employment and a home.  Many of the homeless portrayed in the project have a strong understanding of what their pet needs – and they are grateful for the financial support to make it happen.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Full Tummy Project

I love true stories about how dogs bring people together.  This one comes from Florida, where people at The Doglando Foundation have created the Full Tummy Project.

The Full Tummy Project sets up every Thursday evening at the Global Outreach Center in Bithlo, Florida (east of Orlando, home to DisneyWorld) to provide food and other essential supplies to homeless pet owners.

photo courtesy of Pets of the Homeless

photo courtesy of Pets of the Homeless

The Center has traditionally provided meals for the poor and homeless (like most soup kitchens and homeless shelters), but the folks at the Doglando Foundation recognized that many homeless also own animals and the animals suffer from their poor living conditions and inability to pay for veterinary care.

“Between 5 to 10 percent of homeless people have dogs or cats, and in some [rural] areas of the country, it’s as high as 24 percent,” says Renee Lowry, executive director of Pets of the Homeless, a national organization that helps provide food, medical care and assistance to homeless people who need help caring for their animals.

People are homeless for many reasons; for example some have mental illness but others have lost their jobs in the enduring recession and have had mortgages foreclosed.  The family, including the family pet, ends up on the streets.

So the Full Tummy Project is a soup kitchen for animals and there are currently over 150 families registered with the project.

Orlando Weekly cover

The Orlando Weekly covered the stories of the people involved in the Full Tummy Project, so read the full story by clicking on the Orlando Weekly cover page above.