Lack of dog-friendly accommodation still a barrier for homeless people

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Dogs Trust is calling on homelessness services to consider their clients’ canine friends too when offering support, as research shows that a lack of dog-friendly accommodations remains a barrier for homeless people.

“In a survey of professionals supporting those experiencing homelessness, 70 per cent told Dogs Trust that their clients had experienced barriers to accessing homelessness services because they have a dog,” Dogs Trust, which works to support homeless pet owners through its Hope Project, says.

“Further to this, 84 per cent were aware of one or more cases where someone had refused an offer of temporary or emergency accommodation as it would have meant giving up their dog. Just 51per cent of the homelessness services that responded to the Dogs Trust survey said that their services were dog friendly.”

“Even privately rented places won’t take dogs, I feared we would end up sleeping on the streets”

“The barriers faced by dog owners experiencing homelessness extend beyond temporary accommodation; 75 per cent of service providers who responded to the Dogs Trust survey said they had experienced difficulties in finding dog-friendly move-on accommodation for owners they had supported, and this is across independent or supported living, or accommodation in the private rented sector.”

Every day across Britain, there are people having to make a choice between their dog and a place to sleep at night. Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s provides pet-friendly accommodation for people who have become homeless; among the people they have helped is Nicky, who lives in one of its hostels in South London with her pet Chihuahua, Foxy.

“When I had days to vacate the property I was living in with Foxy, I was really worried. Even privately rented places won’t take dogs, I feared we would end up sleeping on the streets. St Mungo’s came along and offered us a space in a hostel, it was a great weight off my mind,” Nicky said.

“Foxy was my only companion during lockdown, he was my only friend. The only time I went out was to walk him. Having a dog gives you a responsibility, an aim or a goal. When I was depressed I couldn’t be bothered getting up, but having a dog jumping up and down and needing something gave me a reason to get up in the morning. It was nerve-wracking going into the hostel but everyone was really nice, and Foxy got showered with attention. There’s no way I could have left him behind, he is like a child to me.”

St Mungo’s Head of Westminster Services Sylvia Tijmstra said, “We know that pets can sometimes feel like the only companion for people who are sleeping rough. They provide warmth and comfort when people need it most. At St Mungo’s we recognise the powerful emotional support pets can provide, and that’s why we are one of the only charities to accept pets in our hostels.

“Without pet friendly charities like St Mungo’s and Dogs Trust, many more people would be faced with having to choose between a safe place to sleep and keeping their pet. So we at St Mungo’s feel that it’s vital we provide support for people and their pets to help end homelessness.”

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