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.

News Brief: Rising Rents, Rising Homelessness - 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Finds Increase in Homelessness Concentrated in High-Cost Cities

For the first time in seven years, homelessness has increased in the United States. According to the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, the increase was driven mostly by the numbers of unsheltered individuals in the 50 largest cities. 

“The commonality in [these places] are rapidly rising rents, with not rapidly rising incomes. This is causing the displacement of a significant number of people,” said Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson during a press call on Wednesday. Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, agreed. “High cost and low vacancy rates are putting more people at risk of entering homelessness, and they’re making it harder and harder for people to find housing as they strive to exit homelessness.”

The Trump administration's proposed budget for 2018 slashes HUD spending by more than $6 billion, eliminating housing aid for millions, including rental housing vouchers for more than 250,000 households. As Kriston Capps reported, “relative to funding levels necessary for HUD in fiscal year 2017, the cuts amount to a 15 percent reduction—the largest cuts in housing aid since the Reagan administration.”

According to Gary Blasi, a professor of law emeritus at UCLA and an expert in homelessness, there is still hope for people experiencing homelessness. One of the nation's homeless capitols is making an effort to effectively prevent and end this crisis. 

"Well, [Los Angeles is] doing a few things right. One is that the voters have done everything they could do. They passed by 75 percent a bond that will raise about $1.2 billion over 10 years to build supportive housing. The county voters have approved a sales tax increase that will add about 350 million a year for various kinds of services...[but] we know exactly what we need to do in order to end homelessness in Los Angeles. It's a question primarily of political will and leadership and a recognition that we have underspent on this part of our society for a very long time and it will take some considerable resources to get back to where we even were 30 years ago."

Click the images below to scroll through a few key findings from the 2017 AHAR:

My Dog is My Home's Annual Meeting at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary

My Dog is My Home celebrated its past year of operations and accomplishments during a bi-coastal annual meeting. The New York team took the opportunity to retreat to the beautiful Woodstock Farm Sanctuary (WFS) to reflect on its work and the human-animal bond.

WFS's mission is to rescue farmed animals and give them care and sanctuary, connect animals with people to advance veganism, and advocate for animal rights in alliance with other social justice movements. At first glance, My Dog is My Home’s mission may seem afield from WFS’s. But our two organizations actually share a foundational quality - WFS works to provide sanctuary for animals and to give them a new lease on life, as do we. In our work, home is a sanctuary for both human and non-human animals alike, as well as those who come in human-animal pairs.. Also, we believe that all social justice missions are connected. The struggle for a more kind, compassionate, and just world includes the intersecting interests of both people and animals. 

We thank our host for providing the perfect setting for a review of our year!

 

Recap: Philadelphia Service Fair and Blessing of the Animals

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"They're a part of my family. They go where I go."

- Mohammed

We thank our generous and dedicated partners in the City of Brotherly Love for their participation in the Philadelphia Service Fair and Blessing of the Animals. With Misfit Manor, West Chester University, Emancipet, Bad Dog Good Dog,  Avery's Pet Styling Salon and Boutique, and Old First Church, we were able to serve 7 animals and their human caretakers and prepare them for the winter ahead. The dogs walked away fully vaccinated, bathed, and stocked up on cold-weather sweaters. Unfortunately, we know that their human caregivers face more difficult challenges that we cannot address in a 1-day service fair. So for us, the service fair is not an end in itself - it is just the first step in addressing the shelter and housing needs of people experiencing homelessness with animals. 

Through the relationships forged with local partners and our new and improved understanding of human service providers in Philadelphia, we hope to identify and work with one of the area's overnight winter shelters for a "soft launch" of a pet-friendly space. Please check our Philadelphia project page for future updates.

Photo credits: My Dog is My Home, Jaime Morgan (Misfit Manor), and Emancipet Philadelphia.