jewish house

Understanding The Importance Of Pets

Guest author, Patrick Caruana, gives us insight into the importance of pets for those seeking refuge and shelter. He shows us that homelessness takes many forms, including those who have lost jobs, the youth and those escaping domestic violence. In any situation, an animal remains a constant source of hope and companionship. 

Family pet

“Pets are only for the wealthy, for those who work.”

“If a person is disabled, homeless, unemployed they need to find their own income before I pay for a pet.”

How often have we heard that sentiment? We may even have held it ourselves. For many of us who work in the area of homelessness and social housing, we have encountered that attitude. We also know and understand the fragility of life and lifestyle and how it can change in the blink of an eye.

I have noticed subtle shifts in attitude over the past thirty-five years that I have been involved in the social justice environment. People have started to become more and more aware of the importance of pets. They cannot be thrown away when a persons circumstances change. More recently, people have become more and more accepting and understanding of the bond between pets and their owners.

Over my lifetime the definition of homelessness has changed considerably. People are starting to see that homelessness can affect anybody. So now we have homeless families living in cars and sharing rooms often with young children. These people may well have a pet, usually a dog that has been a part of their family. Many simply cannot get rid of that pet as it is loved and loves back in return.

The number of families escaping family violence has increased dramatically. Women now feel more empowered around the trauma of family violence. One of the things that I have learnt through my work is that the thought of leaving a loved pet behind stands in the way of them leaving or causes incredible distress and worry for them. They worry for the pet’s welfare and safety as they feel that it could become a victim of the violence. The children escaping family violence also become distressed at leaving their pet behind. It is extremely important for the fleeing parent to try and create a “normal” and stable environment for their children, and having the family pet with them is part of that normality of “continuing family life, just a at a couple of different locations for a while”. The family dog becomes the one major constant in all the moves. For families where a child is living with Autism or Asperger’s this is a particularly pertinent issue. Increasingly, organisations that support families fleeing violence are understanding this dilemma, but at this stage there are very few refuges with facilities for pets to be accommodated.

There are also more young people are leaving home situations that are untenable. Young people with pets are increasingly living on the street or in “squats” because there is nowhere that can accommodate them together. This particular cohort is attached to their pets because at age 16-17 years, that pet has been with them almost all their life. The pet gives them safety and again some stability but is also possibly the only provider of some form of love and affection and allows them to share those most basic of human needs.

Today, I remain hopeful that the general community understands that pets bring companionship and safety to those who are homeless and also gives them responsibility and a reason to face each day.

I really would like to encourage people to take a positive view on the impacts that pets have for those that are homeless. This includes supporting accommodation like Jewish House in assisting them to provide pet accommodation and also to encourage landlords and those who either manage rental properties or other crisis centres and refuges to consider the issue and if possible, create a way to provide that accommodation. Look outside the box, maybe your local council allows a person to have several dogs and you could discuss with the rangers the possibility of the council creating a database of pet foster people so that a person who is homeless or fleeing danger can contact the council and know that their pet can be cared for, for a period time.

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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.

The Kennel Project & Jewish House

Long-term kennel structure at Jewish House

Long-term kennel structure at Jewish House

Old kennel facilities to be replaced

Old kennel facilities to be replaced

Jewish House is currently building long-term kennels to provide for the beloved pets of people undergoing crisis. Jewish House is an amazing organisation that provides 24/7 crisis support and services to those who need it. They help a range of people, and luckily, this extends to animals as well. This great news means that struggling Australians have a place to stay and get back on their feet, without having to leave their best friends behind! Jewish House also work alongside Project HoPe (Homeless Pets) with a vet to care for the pets that come in.

 How can you help?

Sponsor the construction of the kennels by donating here and attaching a message for ‘The Kennel Project’ as well as any personal notes – we’d love to hear your thoughts! Every little contribution makes a difference. We will also be adding in a plaque to thank those who choose to donate $300 or more, which will be placed above the kennels. Any bits and pieces like matting, toys and blankets to add to the kennels to make life more comfortable for the dogs will also be greatly appreciated.  Any excess funds that we may be lucky enough to have will go towards ongoing costs of providing for the animals that come in, including food and veterinary services with Project HoPe. Email us at petsofthehomelesssyd@gmail.com to get in touch or feel free to stop by our Facebook page to talk. We can’t wait to hear from you.

This is a truly exciting initiative, as we know there aren’t many shelters that welcome pets, let alone provide for them! Your support will allow vulnerable Australians, including those who are homeless, keep the strong bond between them and their pets, ensuring that they are provided a constant sense of comfort and familiarity as they get back on their feet.

Kennel Construction

Kennels under construction

Jewish House backyard under construction

Jewish House backyard under construction

About The Kennel Project

The Kennel Project is our way to help more shelters and crisis accommodation support vulnerable Australians and the pets they keep. Few shelters open their doors to animals, and the ones that do still need a little help to make every pet’s stay comfortable.

Get in contact with us at petsofthehomelesssyd@gmail.com or chat to us on our Facebook page to keep updated with the progress!

If you are a shelter or know of a shelter that is looking to open their doors to animals, we would love to hear from you. We want The Kennel Project to spread and help more places support the bond between owner and pet.

Pet Friendly Shelters & Accommodation

Pet and Owner Bond

For many people without a home, pets provide constant support, love and companionship. Homeless people often have to choose between their pet and accommodation, with most preferring to live rough on the streets than go without their beloved companions. Luckily, there are some wonderful accommodation options that open their doors to not only the homeless, but their animals.

Jewish House

Jewish House is a NFP organisation in Bondi led by Rabbi Kastel to provide assistance to those in the community without a place to call home. They also provide kennels for the homeless with pets, so vulnerable Australians can get the help they need without having to choose between their animal companions. Not only do they provide accommodation for the vulnerable, but also offer case management services to support individuals and families to get back on their feet. Rabbi Kastel and Jewish House work amazingly hard to address the issue of homelessness in NSW. It’s wonderful to see a shelter recognise and support the bond between owner and pet, no matter what the circumstance.

Australian Common Ground Alliance

The Common Ground Project in Camperdown provides affordable, safe and permanent housing to those in the community suffering from chronic homelessness. With the help of The Mercy Foundation, the Common Ground community is “pet friendly”, allowing tenants to keep pets. In addition to this, the Wentworth Community Housing Project at Penrith also welcomes pets, offering subsidised accommodation for homeless men and women.

In addition to these accommodation options, there are program such as the RSPCA’s Living Ruff Program look after pets so people can access interim accommodation and look to finding a permanent home, before being reunited with their companions.

These are all wonderful organisation that support the bond between homeless people and their pets, it’s what we need to see more of! If there are any other crisis accommodation and shelters that welcome pets, we would love to hear about them. Feel free to email us at petsofthehomelesssydney@gmail.com or visit us on our Facebook page.