Dog Champions Scheme
Latest figures from Crisis (April 2021) estimate that there are 200,000 experiencing core homelessness in England in 2020. In the UK 1 in 10 people experiencing homelessness has a pet.
Hostels are an essential part of the response to homelessness providing a temporary place to stay and supporting with permanent solutions for housing and reintegration into society. Research has shown that fewer than 10% of hostels are pet friendly leaving a homeless pet owner at a disadvantage. Fewer than 7% of homeless pet owners would give up their dog in exchange for housing.
Main reasons given by hostels for not accepting pet residents are:
- Lack of staff knowledge and training
- Health and Safety concerns
- 'No Pet' Clauses in hostel lease agreements
- Pet Welfare responsibility concern
- Lack of pet friendly permanent housing to 'move on' leading to longer stays for residents.
The bond between a homeless person and their pet is well documented and provides many positive mental and physical benefits to the owner. Despite this most people who are homeless are asked to give up their pet to access accommodation. Dogs on the Streets charity believe that owning a dog should not be a barrier to accessing support and a safe place to sleep.
Dogs on the Streets Dog Champions Scheme support hostels to become pet friendly and provides:
- Accredited Staff training and support
- Canine First Aid training and First Aid Kit
- Pet policies
- Owner agreements
- Welcome pack of pet essentials for residents
'DAVE AND LOLA'
Dave* has been at our scheme for almost three months with his dog, Lola*; prior to this he spent a period of time rough sleeping due to feeling unsafe in his previous property.
Initially Dave had been hesitant to join the service. As with a lot of our service users, Dave has complex needs, perhaps the most predominant of which is his psychosis. This, alongside his previous experiences of being systematically emotionally abused and threatened by members of the community, can lead him to see everything as a potential threat.
Whilst Lola attempted to settle into the kennel Dave became convinced other people had access to it, too. Padlocks were changed on a number of occasions, new security lights were fitted and staff kept an extra eye on the security cameras to alleviate his concerns, but these concerns still remained. Battling alongside these concerns, too, was the separation anxiety they both felt. Lola had never spent time in a kennel and the two of them had a very close bond they had fostered over the years. And so these concerns, along with the cold weather, fireworks and an abundance of sneaky cats, lead to a few difficulties – and a lot of howling – as they tried to settle into room and kennel respectively. As a result Dave spent many nights in the kennel and some back on the streets rather than leave Lola alone. This lead to a decline in his own personal hygiene, sleeping pattern and consequentially his mental health, as well as a lot of confusion for Lola; Dave’s anxieties to leave Lola alone in the kennel were picked up on and amplified by her and she would often shake and resist when Dave attempted to return to the scheme, again adding fuel to his theory that people were harming her.
Crucial for this to work Dave also needed to feel safe and supported at the scheme. His keyworker was able to slowly build up rapport and trust through listening to his concerns and taking them seriously, as well as encouraging him to get back in regular contact with his MH worker and offering opportunities for him to take his mind of his anxieties, through walking, baking and numerous cups of tea.
'JANET AND OLIVER'
‘Janet’ moved into our service after suffering from bereavement after the passing of her wife. ‘Janet’ had moved to the service with her small dog, for whom she had cared for with her spouse for a long time. ‘Janet’s’ dog was her main source comfort after losing her wife and becoming homeless.
As ‘Janet’ was on a low income and had been homeless for over a year she had found it difficult moving to new home, and having to care for her dog on such a low income.
Want to get involved?
We hope that many more local authorities and accommodation providers will view the Dogs on the Streets Scheme as a positive step to removing the barriers against homelessness and dog ownership, reaching the up to 25% currently unsupported homeless individuals.
We are expanding rapidly and we plan to work right across the UK to provide this vital life saving service. If you are a local authority or provider who would like our support please contact us email@example.com
Dogs on the Streets is a multi award winning and UK’s main charity that supports rough sleepers and the homeless community with dog.
Founded in 2016 by Michelle Clark, DOTS offers 24/7 support for these dogs and their homeless owners.
DOTS operates mobile weekly street “stations’ across London, Oxford, Kent, Milton Keynes, and in a partnership with a housing project Birmingham with further stations opening during 2022
Dogs On The Streets
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