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 and housing programs must accommodate emotional support and service animals as long as the request is "reasonable".
To help us get an understanding of how this particular housing program's emotional support animal protocol is implemented, My Dog is My Home is conducting interviews and focus group with the program's residents and staff. This research is being carried out 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:
RESIDENT INTERVIEW: "The staff was good to me. The little case manager, she was so good. She walked me through the whole process and helped me get approved. She would sit Fluffy on her desk when she was a puppy. She would say, 'Sit her right here.' I said, 'On your desk?' And she would say, 'Yes. I love this dog. I really wanted you to have a dog.'"
RESIDENT INTERVIEW: "I would love for it to grow so that there's a stabilized form of the [emotional support animal] protocol. I think that we're getting there but I think it could broaden. It's still on the low, slow road...It's used as a tool to say, 'We'll accept you or we won't accept you.' I was strongly advised by two people who've lived in this building 12+ years, 'Do not disclose that you have a dog. We know you. You have a legitimate physical disability. Wait until they give you that key and walk in with your animal. And when they look at you and say, 'What's this?', say 'I'm disabled. It's my right.' Only because they had, for 12+ years, watched them just annihilate people over animals. Either accepting them or getting rid of them - using their animals to drive them out of the building and the program."
STAFF INTERVIEW: "[Once, a resident] had done everything that he needed to do - he submitted the paperwork. And no one from [our main office] got back to him to give him an 'OK, you're good to go.' So what he had was the property manager constantly hounding him. But he was like, 'I did everything. I've done everything I'm supposed to do. You haven't gotten back to me with that information.' And then once I started investigating that, I realized there's no one who's looking at that paperwork once it gets submitted to the main office. So then it's just going into a mailbox that no one's checking. So you're actually causing a lot of stress and a lot of extra work to the resident and to the employee by not following up on these things. If you're going to demand that this paperwork gets filled out, give them the OK that everything is good to go. It was just sitting in a mailbox for six months. So, it takes that extra drive from someone to say, 'I'm going to get to the bottom of this and figure it our because you're important enough for me to do that, and I care enough to do that.'"