No one should have to choose between a safe place to sleep and their pet
An animal welfare charity has partnered with a care charity to support pet-friendly accommodation for homeless people.
The partnership between the UK’s largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust and the Simon Community Scotland, has successfully increased accommodation and support options for dog owners experiencing homelessness in Scotland.
Through engagement with homelessness service providers in Scotland, a total of 30 have signed up since the launch of the project to develop dog-friendly policies and begin accepting referrals from dog-owners.
This includes three charities that have developed a charity wide pet-policy, and the project continues to support their services across the country to welcome pet owners. Launched in September 2020, the jointly funded role between the two charities was developed to ensure that fewer dog owners in Scotland have to make the heart-breaking choice between a safe place to sleep or staying with their dog.
The findings from Dogs Trust and Simon Community Scotland’s partnership highlighted that a lack of pet-friendly policies in homelessness accommodation services is a significant problem for those facing homelessness. The charities’ joint dedicated, 1-year Pets and Housing Project has been working with homelessness organisations across Scotland to provide tailored support so they can remove barriers and open their doors to dog owners through the ‘Welcoming Dogs’ scheme operated by Dogs Trust.
One person who has benefitted from the work of the project is Damon, who became homeless when the only hostel space he was offered wouldn’t accept dogs. He feared he would need to give his dog up. Damon describes how Odan saved his life.
Damon said: “I needed a reason to get out of bed in the morning, I was losing grip on life and I didn’t want to live anymore. Odan has been an absolute godsend to me, and he has completely changed my outlook on life. Odan gives me the energy I needed to push forward with my life, he has given me something to fight for.
“It means everything to be with Odan. I wish I had the words to express how it feels. Dogs pick up from us how we are feeling, and they know if we’re not happy. The reason that Odan settled, is because I am settled here. It has made a big difference to us to be made to feel so welcomed.
With support from Simon Community Scotland and Dogs Trust, Damon was able stay with Odan thanks to the local authority arranging pet-friendly emergency accommodation for them. Damon and Odan have since moved into their own tenancy together.
Cat Birt, pets and housing engagement and development officer, who leads on the Pets and Housing Project, said: “I’m really proud of everything that has been achieved over the last year, despite the challenges we have faced as a result of the pandemic, and it has been great to see first-hand how our work has impacted people’s lives.
“For people facing homelessness, they are more likely to be isolated and detached from society and their pet can be the most loving and consistent relationship they have. We are a nation of dog lovers, and know how pets enrich our lives, so it is vitally important homelessness services recognise the importance of the human animal bond and make changes to their policies, so they provide a service inclusive of pet owners.
“Thanks to the commitments we have already had by organisations in Scotland to become more pet-friendly, we know our approach is working, but there is more to be done. Thankfully, there is an opportunity for us to roll this project out more widely across the UK and help even more dog owners in need.”
Hugh Hill, director of services and development at Simon Community Scotland, said: ‘’At the heart of the project was recognising the incredibly positive bond between a dog and their human and the positive difference it made for people at their lowest ebb.
"The impact of Covid-19 has been challenging but what it did do was really highlight the importance of positive, meaningful and loving relationships in all our lives and for the people we support they often only experienced that connection with their dog.
"Every one of our services is dog-friendly and we will continue to share our approach and resources to any organisation looking to welcome our furry friends.’’