My name is Caitlin and I have had the pleasure of being one of two interns for Studenteer’s Homelessness Campaign. As my time with the campaign draws to an end, I felt it necessary to write this blog on something that has always been a huge part of my life, dogs. Growing up, my dog completed my home, but for many homeless people, their dog is their home.
2020 has seen the amount of first-time rough sleepers increase by 77% in our capital alone (CHAIN Annual Report Greater London). In a year where we have all suffered, for those without a home, the suffering is unimaginable. Some comfort can be found in knowing that these individuals have a pet to turn to in their most difficult moments. However, with anywhere from 5% – 25% (streetvet.co.uk) of homeless people having a pet and only 10% (streetvet.co.uk) of all UK hostels accepting them, it appears many face choosing their best friend over shelter, or choosing shelter and losing their best friend.
Throughout my time working with homelessness charities this month, I have generally focused my efforts on the people side of the problem. It is the obvious route to take and sadly where statistics show the greatest help is needed. Yet I feel having devoted time to the effects of homelessness on these individuals, in my last days as a homelessness intern, it makes great sense to provide much needed light on the often-forgotten victims of homelessness.
When I applied to this internship, I would say my personal experiences with homelessness, in my university city of Oxford, were a huge motivation. A city of such affluence, it is also where I have seen the most homelessness, both human and animal. Throughout my time, I often found myself bumping into Jack, the resident white Bull Mastiff. Among Oxford’s homeless, he offered sanctuary and support where a house could not. Pictured here, this gentle giant was a consistent part of the landscape. Having taken time to speak to his handlers, I learnt Jack belonged to not one individual but was there for whoever needed him most. Jack was a home without four walls and a front door, but with unconditional love and warmth.
Sadly, Jack is not the only dog offering this kind of safety to our nation’s homeless. Having spent some time researching, I learnt that less than 7% of homeless individuals with a pet would give them up in order to obtain accommodation (streetvet.co.uk). This unfathomable level of love is what makes this blog so important. A blog to raise awareness of this important issue and support the charities that, often, do not pop into our minds at first thought.
Charities Making a Difference
Across the UK, charities are not only doing all they can to provide veterinary care for these animals, but are also passionately advocating for a change in hostel regulations. Without these efforts, our nation would find up to a quarter of our homeless people losing the support they need.
STREETPAWS UK are a charity not only with an outreach programme but who are also working hard to install kennels throughout hostels. Overcoming the barriers many encounter regarding lack of facilities, their mission is invaluable to those who are torn between shelter and losing their best friend. For as little as £10, we can support their kennel scheme and help give a home to so many of our nations homeless pets. Or, for a little fun this Christmas, for you fellow dog mums and dads out there, StreetPaws UK are running a Virtual Dog Show for only £2 per person. With entries from cutest puppy to Golden Oldies, this is an amazing way to show your support with your own four-legged companion, knowing it will help the many companions of others.
DOTS or Dogs on The Streets is another charity I wanted to highlight. Running weekly mobile street “stations” across Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Oxford, London, Kent and Somerset, their mobile veterinary service offers crucial care to these homeless pets.
For any of our readers out their pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, STREETVETis another we cannot forget to mention. If you, unlike me, conquered your fear of blood, and are on your way to becoming a vet, I would urge you to offer your services. Constantly growing their database of animal care providers, it is a great way to gain experience, while making a real impact.
There are many more charities devoted to this issue, and I could list them endlessly, however for now, I hope this blog provides a snapshot to promote a consideration of, and conversation surrounding, this pressing issue.
How We Can Help The Homeless – Caitlin’s Top Tips
With this strange Christmas upon us, the time for giving has never felt so right, and with these tips, I hope you will join us in the fight against homelessness.
- Take the time to stop and talk to a dog and its owner; The gift of conversation, in these isolated times, is priceless.
- In our busy lives, take a moment of recognition for these dogs and their owners. Becoming aware of this issue is a hugely important step in creating a world where these individuals, and their pets, are not ignored.
- Finally, should you, like me, find the realities of homelessness too painful to ignore, there are countless volunteering opportunities throughout the UK. Reach out to work with Studenteer, visit our most recent posts to see specific charity initiatives or simply start with a google. Just giving a helping hand, in whatever form, will be appreciated infinitely.
Merry Christmas Everyone, may it be the most appreciative one yet.