A common question we are faced with in our advocacy for homeless human-animal families is "How many homeless people have companion animals?" Anecdotally, we can attest that companion animals are quite common. However, statistical research in this area is often too limited to support our eye witness accounts with numbers. Now, due to the awareness raising work of My Dog is My Home and its partnering organizations, certain communities are showing an interest in understanding the scope of animal companionship among the homeless. This winter, Toledo, OH and Los Angeles, CA have committed to systematically counting homeless people with companion animals. Both cities have added a question about pet ownership to the survey used in their annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count* of unsheltered homeless individuals.
Through their pioneering inclusion of homeless animal guardians in the PIT count survey, Toledo and Los Angeles are breaking new ground by recognizing that individuals and families with animals may face unique challenges to accessing services and moving out of homelessness. Understanding the scope of the problem opens new doors for creating policies and services that target this special population. My Dog is My Home applauds these cities' leadership in recognizing the human-animal bond in circumstances of homelessness, and we urge other cities to follow their example. We also ask you to be an advocate for this kind of change! Reach out to the agency responsible for your local PIT count and ask them to add a question about animal companionship to their survey!
*The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires that all communities count sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in a PIT count on a single night at the end of January. Each count is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally.