A new initiative has been launched to break down the barriers of street homelessness by enabling rough sleepers to bring their pets into supported accommodation with them.
Animal charities Street Paws and Dogs On The Streets have teamed up with national housing association Riverside to provide support through their Dog Champions scheme so that people sleeping rough can stay with their trusted companion when moving into supported accommodation.
The innovative scheme provides free training to Riverside staff in supported services, involving behaviour and canine first aid training. Participants will also understand what happens when owners don’t take care of their dog appropriately.
Claudia Ludovice is one of the first at Riverside to become a Dog Champion.
The Dog Champion training was a really fun experience. It enabled me to learn how to best support residents and for them to care for their pets while living at the scheme, as well as ensuring they feel welcome and safe in our service,” says Claudia, Riverside’s service manager at the LGBTQ+ scheme in Manchester which is part of A Bed Every Night initiative to provide short-term accommodation for rough sleepers in the region.
The initiative has also been invaluable to residents as Street Paws has provided excellent health care for the dogs living on site whose owners would otherwise struggle to afford to pay for the high vet bills while experiencing homelessness.
Riverside acknowledges the benefits of having a pet-friendly policy in its supported services as animals can have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing, in addition to preventing social isolation and loneliness. The policy can also assist outreach teams to engage more easily with rough sleepers who have pets which they might not otherwise do so, as many supported services don’t allow animals.
Benefiting from the initiative are Jeff and his dog Laya:
I’m so pleased that I can have Laya stay with me as she gives me a reason to get out of bed every day. She gets me out of the flat and take her for walks to the park – we bring each other a lot of joy.
Before I had Laya I suffered from stress and I didn’t have much to look forward to. If I was having a bad day I found it difficult to be motivated or do anything. But with Laya I’ve found I’m less stressed because I am responsible for her and need to make sure that I care for her well.
Both charities, Street Paws and Dogs On The Streets, provide free veterinary care and support services to dogs whose owners are rough sleeping.
Image credit: Riverside – Jeff and his dog Laya