Giving Compass' Take:

• The author explains how homelessness response systems need to incorporate solutions for pet assistance by partnering with animal welfare organizations and local veterinarians. 

• How will pet assistance reduce the barriers for homeless individuals to find care?

• Read about how you can volunteer for animals effectively.  

Street Outreach staff often share a similar story… Someone they know has been living on the street for a long time and continually turns down assistance or shelter. Suddenly, the individual reaches out for help because their service animal or pet needs assistance. For the outreach team, this is a perfect opportunity to finally offer support to both the animal and its owner experiencing homelessness.

These stories remind us that many people consider pets members of their family and will often put their animal’s needs over their own by going without a meal to feed their pets, refilling a pet prescription before their own, or sleeping outside because a shelter won’t allow animals. But by engaging that individual in their primary concern — their pet — homelessness response systems and individual providers can leverage the human-animal bond to provide life-saving services to people and their pets.

In order to serve people experiencing homelessness and their animals, homeless response systems and individual homeless providers must develop and maintain relationships with animal welfare organizations and local veterinarians. They can assist in the following ways:

  • Providing care and vaccination services for animals.
  • Donating pet food.
  • Donating crates, leashes, toys, beds, etc., for use in shelters or homes.
  • Providing shelter or foster care for individuals who may need to separate from their pet while they receive services.
  • Providing consultation and training for shelters and homeless providers on how to configure shelters or space so that humans and animals can stay together.
  • Providing animal-behavior training to pet owners and homeless provider staff.

The homeless response system cannot do it alone. The stronger these partnerships are, the more resources and opportunities homeless services staff will have to increase engagement.

Read the full article about helping pets of homeless individuals by Kristi Schulenberg at National Alliance to End Homelessness