Man’s best friend to tackle homelessness?

Man’s best friend to tackle homelessness?

TACKLING entrenched homelessness is complex, particularly when a street sleeper’s only friend is a dog.  Persuading them to leave their best friend behind is often the barrier to them leaving the streets.  Homeless charity, Turning Lives Around, is launching a new scheme which will keep man and his best friend together.

TURNING Lives Around has a reputation for breaking barriers in its bid to tackle homelessness.  To reach some of the city’s most entrenched street sleepers the South Leeds based charity has installed dog kennels at one of its supported living environments.

It is the latest move by the pioneering homeless charity to remove barriers to street sleepers who refuse support because they are unable to take their only friend with them.

The one-year pilot is a collaboration between TLA, which supports homeless people to secure permanent housing and re-integrate into local communities, Leeds Housing Options and Street Paws, an animal charity which supports the homeless and vulnerably housed by offering free vet care for their pets on a regular basis.

It is the first such initiative in Leeds, but both TLA and Street Paws hope its success could herald the start of others following suit.

James Allen, who is the Service Co-ordinator for TLA said the scheme had been a long time in planning.  “We recognised that some homeless people were loathe to leave the streets because they couldn’t take their dogs with them. 

“We know we are not experts in dog care and wanted to do this right to improve its chances of success.  Street Paws has helped us design the two kennels, they have offered advice and guidance to staff and will provide vet care to the animals.

“When a person takes up a place in our Oakdale service, where the pilot is running, they will be able to bring their dog.  People commonly stay in one of our supported housing schemes for up to four months during which time we will have helped them access their own tenancies and any other support they might need to tackle health or dependency issues and set them on their way to independent living and job seeking,” he said.  “Keeping their pet with them has positive mental health benefits.  It’s an initiative that makes sense.”

Michelle Southern is the founder of Street Paws. “This scheme really is ground-breaking for the people we support and their pets.  Having a pet is a barrier to a place in the hostel. Our clients stay on the streets, risking their health and safety because of the incredible bond they share with their dogs.

 “We already provide animal care to street sleepers in Leeds and commonly find that their pets are well cared for and in good health.  They feed their pet before themselves but having access to a hostel place with their pet will ensure they are safe and secure,” she said. 

“Oakdale offering pet care could be the catalyst for change for many street sleepers and help them to rebuild their lives.”

Janet Spencer is CEO of TLA.  She said: “Entrenched street sleeping is a complex issue.  People become homeless for many reasons.  TLA will always tackle tough issues head on with unique solutions that could be replicated nationwide.”

TLA were recently on BBC Radio Leeds discussing their new project with Stephanie Hurst. Click here to listen to their interview (skip to 43 minutes in)