Society

Three Ways Animals Can Help Humans

Delta Dogs

Pets of the Homeless Sydney is one way to recognise how animals make a difference in the lives of people. However, there are many inspirational programs that have connected animals with disadvantaged individuals to let them take control of their lives. Here are only three amazing programs among many that benefit both parties, all understanding the importance that animals have in the wellbeing of vulnerable people. If you find out about any others, I encourage you to share them!

1. Delta Society Australia

This nonprofit organisation works to promote and facilitate positive interactions between people and animals. The Delta Therapy Dogs program brightens the lives of around 20,000 Australians a week in hospitals and care facilities. The dogs regularly visit health care facilities to provide the invaluable benefits of pet therapy. Across the country, over 850 facilities are involved in the program, including aged care, acute care hospitals for children and adults, mental health facilities, prisons and dementia care facilities.

2. Hand2Paw

Hand2Paw is a nonprofit organisation in Philadelphia that brings together youth and animals to create mutually powerful outcomes. They help young adults between 18 and 21 to volunteer in animal shelters in the city, develop the skills of young adults to pursue employment through working with animals and educate youth on how to treat animals with respect. On top of this, the youth volunteers at Hand2Paw spend hours of time training, grooming and caring for thousands of shelter animals in the city.

3. Puppies Behind Bars

Puppies Behind Bars trains inmates to raise service dogs for war veterans who are wounded and also as law enforcement canines. At 8 weeks, puppies are introduced to their inmate puppy-raises, where they live together for around 2 years. Over this time, the puppies mature into loved, well-behaved dogs while those that raise them learn valuable life skills, contribute to society and enjoy the companionship of a loyal animal. The dogs give a sense of pride and responsibility to their raisers while going on to give independence and security to the wider community.

Advertisements

What Poverty Means

Poverty

When we think of the word “poverty”, we often talk about not having enough to eat. The truth is, it is much more than that.

With Anti-Poverty Week (Oct 12-18) just passing, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the real state of poverty.

Poverty can take many forms, and when we come to realise this, it’s easy to appreciate just how fortunate we are. Poverty includes the woman and her family escaping domestic violence and landing in homelessness, the youth who didn’t have access to as many opportunities during school and struggles to find work, the Aboriginal man or women experiencing years of exploitation and laters faces health issues.

It can be hard to overlook in Australia, considering our relative affluence. However, it still exists, in plenty of variations. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that 13% of the population lives in relative poverty. That’s around three million Aussies.

Those living in poverty face battles each day, both structural and personal, that make it difficult to carry one. They can have low paying jobs with meagre hours, or not even be paid at all. They may have a disability or suffer health problems. They may be struggling to make ends meet and afford the basics. Many are driven into a state of homelessness or live in insecure housing.

In these situations, it’s easy for them to feel alone, excluded and forgotten. Whichever way we want to measure it, by income of social inclusion, this gap between Australians is increasing. So what action can we take to stop this?

The first is to recognise that this disparity exists, even in our fortunate nation. Anti-Poverty Week was instrumental in raising awareness and driving action. It’s one thing to read about the state of our nation, but another to rise to the challenge and do something about it. Organise a forum, write a letter to your local paper, help raise funds for the disadvantaged.

Don’t be afraid to use your voice to make a difference. What are your ideas to tackle the issue of poverty? Share them in the comments below!

10 Ways Pets Improve Mental Health For The Homeless

Dogs

The issue of homelessness often brings the topic of mental health into the picture. And fittingly, Friday October 10 is World Homelessness Day and also marks the end of Mental Health Week.

The homeless community stands at around 106,000 and the incidence of depression and anxiety among this group is despairingly high. Pets play a critical role in the emotional and physical health of not only the homeless, but the aged, lonely and socially excluded. They bring hope and comfort to some of the most vulnerable within the community.

All pets are beneficial for the mind, body and spirit. Here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. They love you unconditionally. It is a big mood-lifter when your pet is always happy to see you. In any situation, pets love without question and appreciate you for you.
  2. They reduce your isolation. Having a pet means more opportunities to socialise for both your pet and you. It is easier to make friends and connect with new people or start conversations with a pet to lead the way.
  3. They give you purpose. Having a pet to care for provides a sense of responsibility and purpose. This is especially helpful when you are feeling down or weighed by negative thoughts. By focusing on another life in need, and seeing your pet’s positive response, it’s easy to feel instant gratification.
  4. They get you moving. Walking your pet and getting into outdoor activities is great for letting off steam. It also keeps you fit and healthy, giving you a reason for a more active lifestyle. This strengthens the body and mind, which means less chance of mental and physical health issues.
  5. They get you outside. Fresh air and sunshine can elevate your mood and give you a good dose of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps with all kinds of physical and mental conditions, like depression and cancer. It also means you get time to engage with nature, which can be incredibly calming.
  6. They make you feel less lonely. It’s hard to feel lonely when you have a companion always on call. Intuitively, pets tend to seek you out when you are feeling down, which means you’re never really alone.
  7. They are always there to listen. A pet is the perfect ‘person’ to vent your thoughts to or simply just talk about your day. They don’t judge and provide and outlet for information that you wouldn’t want to share with anyone else.
  8. They make you happy. Small things like your pet pawing at your arm or rolling in the grass can make you smile, and this can raise serotonin and dopamine levels, which bring calmness and happiness.
  9. They give you a release. Focus on the present and your pet can give you an escape from the bigger issues plaguing you. It reduces your worries and lets you enjoy the moment with your pet, plain and simple.
  10. They reduce stress. Just the simple act of petting your pet can be comforting to not only your furry friend, but yourself. By connecting with your pet, you release a hormone that provides stress and anxiety relief, called oxytocin, which helps to reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Every single person’s day, no matter what their situation, can be positively affected by the pets in our lives. If you have any more ways your pets help you, add them to the comments below.

A pet-friendly society

Off-leash Dog Park

With one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, Australians are known to be animal-lovers. Almost two-thirds of Australian households have a pet and four out of five have owned one at some stage before. Things brings into question the people who are without a place to call home. What happens to their loyal companions? And what is being done to help support the bond they have with their beloved pets?

The benefits of pet ownership are far and wide and the local government would do well to support it. Not only have significant physical and psychological benefits from pet ownership been proven, but pets help to bring communities and people together.

Quite simply, they provide happiness, companionship, love and bestow a sense of pride and responsibility. These may seem like small features but are priceless to those who are homeless. It has been estimated the over $4 billion is saved each year from the national health bill, due to the physical and mental benefits that pets provided.

Around Sydney, the signs are rising to make the city a better place for dogs. This includes more off-leash areas, drinking bowls and more education programs for owners. Yet, there is still a long way to go to becoming a truly pet-friendly society. Policies are restrictive when it comes to allowing pets on public transport, apartments, retirement villages and sadly, homeless shelters or refuges. Unfortunately, these are some of the places where a pet’s presence is needed and appreciated the most.

An ideal future will see policies governing admission of animals into shelters, apartments and retirement villages, to name a few. The issue of homeless people and pets is also one to address.

This requires the support of government members, and all members of society can give voice to the issue by bringing it to their local MPs.

The bond between pet and owner is truly unique, and should be honoured in any situation.

App to Help the Homeless

Many people don’t realise that most people who are homeless have mobile phones. In fact, 95% of them do and 77% own smartphones with Wi-Fi access. This means the revolutionary app by Infoxchange has the potential to be life-changing for those without a home. The “Homeless Assist” project is developing a new mobile app that helps homeless people and those at risk of experiencing homelessness find food, shelter and other support services.

Recent statistics from a study on homelessness and mobile phone usage conducted by the University of Sydney and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) found that mobile phone ownership by the homeless in Australia was even higher than the general population at 92 per cent. It also found that 67 per cent of homeless Australians use social media, and 69 per cent use phones to “access online information”.

It can be hard for the homeless to find their way around the service system with 1,200 specialist homelessness services available and over  300,000 health, welfare and support services around. Among these services, there are a small slice that welcome both homeless people and their pets. Making these services known to people who are experiencing homelessness with their pets will create more opportunities to break the cycle and receive support, for both owner and pet.

The app is a revolutionary idea, with the potential to improve the lives of 100,000 Australians and increase access to support services. This is especially so when you consider the specific requirements of people who are homeless and own animals. This would be an amazing step in the right direction to support the bond between homeless people and their pets. Hopefully, Infoxchange will recognise this opportunity and take the leap. It will also allow people working within the sector to help their clients while out and about.

The app has made Infoxchange one of the 10 finalists in the 2014 Australian Google Impact Challenge, which lets Australian non-profits harness technology to address social problems.

Infoxchange is placing valuable information into the hands of the homeless. It’s an innovative idea that can really impact homelessness and quality of life. And again, an amazing opportunity to share the information about shelters and services that welcome the homeless and their pets.

The Google Impact Challenge finalists can be viewed and voted for here.

Should homeless people have pets?

 

Homeless with pets

When you walk past somebody who is living on the street alongside a companion animal, you may not be able to stop yourself thinking “why do they own a pet when they can barely look after themselves?”. Many people worry about if the animal is getting proper care, food and treatment. These are often the challenges for people living rough, but pet ownership for homeless people also provides a world of benefits.

Number one is that a pet provides constant companionship. When you live by yourself on the streets, your pet becomes your best, and sometimes only friend.

Pets do not judge. As long as you love and care for them, a pet will always be happy and by your side.

Pets provide a sense of responsibility and purpose. When your life starts to lose direction, these small things can bring routine and move the day along.

Animal companions make powerful contributions to the physical and emotional wellbeing of homeless people. During hard times when homeless people have little else, a pet is a sustaining symbol of hope.

However, we know the difficulties of finding shelters and long-term accommodation that allow pets to stay with their owners. In fact, many homeless people choose to continue living on the streets if it means they get to stay with their four-legged friends. Homeless people and the pets they keep have an unshakeable bond, and it can cause separation anxiety to be away from them, even when sleeping. This stops a lot of vulnerable Australians seeking help and even medical treatment for fear of being taken away from their pet.

Another difficulty is accessing food and veterinary services for pets. Homeless people will often go without to ensure that their pet eats first and gets necessary treatment. However, there are many amazing programs such as the RSPCA’s “Living Ruff”, Pets in the Park and Project HoPe (Homeless Pets) that make these services accessible to those who need a helping hand.

What the iPhone queue can teach us about the homeless

Line for the iPhone 6

In await of the new iPhone’s recent release, crowds and crowds of people camped outside the Sydney Apple Store on George Street. It’s funny to think that on the same block on the corner of Market and George Street is a makeshift shelter for somebody without a place to call home.

On any given night in Australia, 105,000 people are homeless. So while many excited iPhone fans braved the cold weather and rugged up in blankets and tents for a night, thousands across the nation did too. And sadly they will continue to do so. Especially if they have animal companions and finding shelter is a far-off option.

It was Mission Australia that highlighted this unlikely connection. So they invited the people in that massive line to give a little something back, because if every single person waiting for an iPhone donated what they could, it would make a world of a difference to the less fortunate. Blankets, a can of food, an online donation – it all makes a difference.

For those lucky and dedicated people who lined up to be one of the first to get their hands on a new iPhone 6, it was a strange yet amazing opportunity to feel the struggle of the homeless.

Were you in line to snag one of the new iPhones? How was your experience camping on the Sydney streets for a night?

It’s a chance for all of us to be thankful for a place to call home and do our part for those without a place to stay. Here’s one way to start: donating to Mission Australia. Or even just saying hello and asking how someone is doing the next time you go past George Street. Every little action makes a difference.