29 Aug 2022
Only around 10% of homeless hostels currently accept pets. Laura Sayer from StreetVet writes about how they are attempting to change this picture.
“It means the world to be indoors, knowing my dogs are safe with me. I can finally sleep soundly not scared that someone will try to steal them while I’m asleep.” These are the words of Brian who, until recently, would sleep rough rather than give up his two dogs Misty and Rain. “Being indoors with my dogs has helped my mental health no end” he says, “and I truly believe it has had the same effect on my dogs. On the street they were constantly alert, like they felt they had to protect us but now some mornings it’s hard to even wake them for a walk.”
Brian's dogs: Misty and Rain.
For people like Brian who find themselves sleeping rough, the unconditional love and companionship they receive from their dogs, especially when often being steadfastly ignored by people walking by, is one of the few things that keeps them going.
Dogs see the person, not their situation. That’s why it’s not surprising that research has found that fewer than 7% of people experiencing homelessness who own pets would give up their animal in exchange for housing. However, what is surprising to us at StreetVet is that only 10% of all UK hostel projects currently accept pets. This leaves people with a horrendous decision to make; continue to sleep on the streets or give up their beloved companion, while hostels that don’t currently allow pets to stay with owners could be missing out on the opportunity to support up to 25% of people experiencing homelessness.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We understand that accepting pets into accommodation projects can be a daunting prospect, especially if organisations feel like they don’t have the expertise to deal with an animal's needs. That’s why we set up StreetVet’s Accredited Hostel Scheme. We work with hostels to support them to be in a position to allow pets through their doors, offering services such as staff training and support, temporary accommodation pet policy, veterinary treatment, food, equipment, pet boarding, pet taxis, a telemedicine platform and pet references amongst many other benefits. We also continue to support residents for up to a year when they move into their own independent living accommodation.
For Trouper and his owner, sleeping rough seemed to be the only way they could stay together. When StreetVet’s outreach team provided veterinary care to Trouper, they also chatted to his owner. After developing that relationship, we then supported him to move into a St-Mungo's hostel that was going through our accreditation process. Consequently, the hostel felt like it had the expertise and support to accept Trouper and now the pair are going from strength to strength, having just moved into their own independent living accommodation together.
Often people who sleep rough have experienced significant trauma in their past. Forcing them to choose between a warm bed and their beloved companion is a world away from the compassionate, person-centred support we know is most effective. Through our Hostel Accreditation Scheme, any hostel can keep people and their pets together. For people like Brian and dogs like Trouper, this can be the first step to leaving the streets for good.
For more information or to apply to become a StreetVet Accredited Hostel, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura is a hostel co-ordinator with StreetVet.