pets

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.

5 reasons pets are good for homeless people

Man's best friend

On any given night 105,000 Australians are without a place to call home. That’s 1 in 200, which is already one too many. People can find themselves unexpectedly in homelessness due to health, job situation or financial difficulties, it can happen to anyone. Throughout all this their pets become more important than ever. So how do pets benefit the homeless community?

  1. Pets are companions. Pets provide homeless people with constant companionship. It means that someone is always by their side so they never feel alone, even at their most vulnerable.
  2. Pets love unconditionally. No matter what the situation, pets are always happy to be with their loving owners. Through rain, hail or shine, pets are undoubtedly there to stay by their side and give them support.
  3. They provide a sense of emotional and physical security. Not only can homeless people sleep soundly knowing that they have their pets by their side, but owning a pet gives them a sense of mental stability and normalcy. Having a constant and unwavering source of love and support is so important when times are rough and you don’t know what the next day will bring.
  4. Pets are their best, and sometime only friend. Homeless people go through everything with their pets, and this means their bond can even be stronger than most pets and owners.
  5. Pets give them a sense of purpose. Having someone else to take care of each day provides them with a sense of responsibility and a reason to keep motivated. Pets need to be cared for and establishing a sense of routine can be a small but uplifting process.

At Pets of the Homeless Sydney, we believe in supporting the unique bond between pet and owner, no matter what the situation. More shelters and crisis accommodation centres welcoming animals means a smoother and happier transition for vulnerable Australians to get back on their feet.

Sam & Ty

“I’ve had Ty since he was 2 weeks old and he’s 2 years now. I got him from the pound. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to enter a shelter or home but none of them will take in Ty as well, so I said no. Wherever I go, he goes.”

Sam and Tye

Sam and Tye

We came across Sam and Ty outside Woolworths in Town Hall. Sam has nothing but love and care for his dog and would rather stay out on the streets than be separated from Ty – another example of the unique bond between pet and owner.

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.