Call to Action for NYC Residents: Put Co-Sheltering on Mayor de Blasio's Radar!

Call to Action for NYC Residents: Put Co-Sheltering on Mayor de Blasio's Radar!

There are currently no homeless shelters that allow pets in New York City - the homelessness capital of the US. THIS FRIDAY, we ask that you join us in asking mayor Bill de Blasio how he plans to address homelessness and animal companionship during his NPR segment #AskTheMayor on the Brian Lehrer show, 10AM - 10:30AM ET.

Below, we have provided sample tweets, graphics to repost, and questions you can read if you choose to call into the show. Use the hashtag #AskTheMayor to ensure your tweet is viewed, or call the hotline at 212-433-9692.

A Few Words from the Emotional Support Animal Protocol Evaluation

We are currently conducting an evaluation of a large permanent supportive housing provider's emotional support animal protocol. According to the Fair Housing Act, all HUD funded shelter and housing programs are required to make a "reasonable accommodation" in order to allow a person with a disability the full use and enjoyment of a dwelling. This means that even in the face of a no-pets-allowed rule, shelters must accommodate emotional support and service animals as long as the request is "reasonable". 

To help us get an understanding of how the emotional support animal protocol is implemented, My Dog is My Home is conducting interviews and focus group with the housing program's residents and staff. This research is being conducted to help identify and promote effective practices in housing people and animals together in homeless service programs. Here are a few excerpts from these interviews:

What is a Low-Barrier Shelter and Why is it Important?

*This content was adapted from the US Interagency Council on Homelessness' "Key Considerations for Implementing Emergency Shelter Within an Effective Crisis Response System" document.

Responding effectively to homelessness requires a combination of strategies at the local level: preventing or diverting people from experiencing homelessness whenever possible; ensuring people transition rapidly from homelessness to housing and services; and providing immediate low-barrier shelter options for people experiencing homelessness who cannot immediately access permanent housing. 

Emotional Support Animal Protocol Evaluation

In the face of the "no pets allowed" rule, some people experiencing homelessness are utilizing the Fair Housing Act's protection of emotional support animals to keep their animals with them while obtaining shelter or housing. People with disabilities are within their rights to have a service or assistance animal at HUD funded shelters. Yet, many homeless service programs have not yet implemented service and assistance animal policies to be in compliance with the law.

As part of an ongoing effort to build understanding of how homeless service agencies can implement effective animal-friendly policies and protocols, My Dog is My Home will be evaluating the emotional support animal protocol of a large permanent supportive housing provider in Los Angeles. The evaluation will entail interviews and focus groups with both staff and clients, as well as a review of property management records. 

Preparing Shelter Workers for Animals On-Site

In partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, My Dog is My Home will be providing customized training to five emergency shelter and bridge housing providers who recently expanded to accommodate animals on-site. While the shelter and bridge housing workers have dedicated their careers to working with people, animals are new territory for many of these shelter staff. The customized trainings will cover a range of topics identified through conversations between My Dog is My Home, Bark Avenue Foundation, and the shelter and bridge housing programs' management. Trainings will be held March 26-30.

We thank Bark Avenue Foundation for their generous support of our work in Los Angeles. 

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NYC Co-Sheltering Legislation

My Dog is My Home is in discussion with the the Office of Council Member Stephen Levin about drafting legislation to keep individuals and families experiencing homelessness united with their animals. In addition to increasing the well-being of families entering shelter, this bill will help reduce avoidable surrenders to municipal animal shelters.

New Data Collection Partnerships in Philadelphia

We are excited to announce our new data collection partnerships with the Veteran's Multi-Service Center and the University City District. These partnerships will help us continue to assess the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia and meet our goal of expanding co-sheltering options in the community. Do you work with a homeless service agency that can add 1-2 questions to their existing intake or engagement forms? 1-2 questions is all it takes to help! 

Email Christine Kim (christine@mydogismyhome.org) if your organization is interested in becoming a data collection partner.

Sharing Practices with the Office of Homeless Services & Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

My Dog is My Home met with directors of the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) and Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) in Philadelphia in February. The meeting came at fortuitous time, in conjunction with the departments' growing awareness for the need to co-shelter people and their animals together. In order to build programs, policies, and protocols that properly address the population's needs, all parties discussed the importance of data and methods for collection. 

Co-Sheltering Collaborative: Inspiring Change in Homeless Services

Co-Sheltering Collaborative: Inspiring Change in Homeless Services

By Dana Teel, MDIMH intern

For communities wishing to provide equitable access to homes to all people and families in need, it is necessary to expand temporary shelter accommodations for the furry, feathered, and scaled friends that may accompany people experiencing homelessness. But how is this accomplished with maximum impact and minimal risk? Surely adding animals to a human shelter environment will be chaotic and even risky. Perhaps. But the reward of keeping people with their animals when they are needed the most is worth facing the challenge. For some, a companion animal might be their sole source of support, comfort, or purpose, and the value of this should not be overlooked.

Sacramento's pet-friendly winter shelter is a success, with some complications to learn from

Sacramento's pet-friendly winter shelter is a success, with some complications to learn from

Sacramento's first low-barrier winter shelter (one that accepts the "3 P's" - partners, pets, and possessions) is proving to be quite successful at getting people out of the streets and encampments in the winter. However, that does not mean they did not experience their fair share of challenges.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s working,” Jaycob Bytel, spokesperson for Mayor Darrell Steinberg, said of the city’s approach to sheltering homeless people this winter. “Allowing pets to stay with their owners has been a critical part of getting chronically homeless people to come in, which is exactly what we had hoped to do.”

Meeting with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Queens District 30 Town Hall

 Social Work / Community Organizing intern Tiffany Noboa meets with the mayor to discuss the lack of co-sheltering options for people experieincing homelessness with animals in NYC.

Social Work / Community Organizing intern Tiffany Noboa meets with the mayor to discuss the lack of co-sheltering options for people experieincing homelessness with animals in NYC.

My Dog is My Home brought the issue of co-sheltering to the attention of politicians and bureaucrats at the December town hall meeting for Queens District 30. What became abundantly clear to us was that co-sheltering was not a topic often (or perhaps ever!) thought of by our elected officials within the realm of homeless services. Help us bring it up often by joining us at future town hall meetings. Email community organizing intern Tiffany Noboato get involved.

A Year in Review

2017 was a tremendous year for My Dog is My Home. Scroll through our gallery to revisit just a few of our favorite moments from last year.

From top to bottom, left to right: Toledo Service Fair (photo credit: Toledo Blade), Bloomington exhibition and presentation on service fair data, Asheville pop-up exhibition and presentation at Firestorm Books & Coffee, Bloomington Service Fair #2, Toledo Social Work continuing education event with special guest Diann Wears (photo credit: Toledo Blade), Video: Advocacy Research Symposium at College of Mount Saint Vincent, Philadelphia Service Fair and Blessing of the Animals, annual meeting at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, starting line at the 1st Annual Tofurky Trot to benefit My Dog is My Home, LAHSA/My Dog is My Home webinar for new co-shelter providers in Los Angeles, founder Christine Kim speaks with mayor Bill de Blasio about co-sheltering options in NYC at a town hall meeting.

Join us at Vegan Drinks Brooklyn featuring Chef Rootsie

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My Dog is My Home is thrilled to be the nonprofit partner for this month's Vegan Drinks Brooklyn at Reclamation Bar. Enjoy a cocktail and come meet us in person!

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Food vendor for the night: Veggie Grub
 

Date & Time: Thursday, January 11 - 8pm to 10pm
Location: Reclamation Bar (817 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211)


Vegan Drinks Brooklyn follows the national Vegan Drinks model of being a free monthly social networking event for people interested in promoting veganism and advocating for animal rights.

On all social media platforms, use #VeganDrinksBK when you post a photo of you and your new veg-friends at the event! 

The event is free to attend.

My Dog is My Home is Now a Beneficiary of Rescue Chocolate!

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Right in time for the holidays, we are now a beneficiary of Rescue Chocolate (completely vegan)! Rescue Chocolate is “the sweetest way to save a life!” From each chocolate purchased, 100% of the net profits are donated to animal rescue organizations around the country.

Supporters may now order Rescue Chocolate online and type "My Dog is My Home" into the Gift Note field on the cart before checkout. Rescue Chocolate gives us $1 on every item ordered (excluding mini bars). So make sure you put in an order this holiday - these bars make excellent stocking stuffers!

The Prevalence of Cats Among Philadelphia's Homeless Population

 Cats of a My Dog First client.

Cats of a My Dog First client.

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Since our October service fair in Philadelphia, Misfit Manor's "My Dog First" program, which provides veterinary care and supplies to companion animals of people experiencing homelessness, has seen a surge in clients. Surprisingly, many of these clients have been cats! 

Our experiences in other cities led us to believe that people experiencing homelessness are much more likely to have dogs than any other kind of animal. During our service fairs across the county, the vast majority of attendees brought dogs, including in Philadelphia. However, the sample size in Philadelphia was small and made it difficult to draw any demographic conclusions.

After the Philadelphia service fair, the My Dog First program was widely promoted and brought many new clients to Misfit Manor's doors - specifically, four single men experiencing homelessness with cats, and a woman with three cats. Moreover, during outreach for the service fair, My Dog is My Home founder Christine Kim received a tip from a community member who stated that he often sees people he believes to be homeless with cats riding the trains in the Northeast section of the city. 

We have yet to understand how this surprising trend will impact Misfit Manor's services or our approach to developing co-sheltering options in Philadelphia. Do you have ideas about how we should engage this population differently? What special challenges are there to experiencing homelessness with a cat, as opposed to a dog? Send your responses to My Dog is My Home founder, Christine Kim (christine@mydogismyhome.org), to be featured in our next newsletter.