Ending homelessness in Los Angeles can be an emotionally charged issue. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new initiative to open low-barrier emergency shelters in every district of LA has garnered a variety of intense responses from communities across the city. A low-barrier shelter is one that minimizes obstacles to entry, including sobriety requirements, official identification, and paperwork. Low-barrier shelters also accept companion animals (pets) ---not just service and emotional support animals that are required to be accommodated under federal law.
However, how these shelters will accept pets hasn’t received much attention. In all of the reactions to Mayor Garcetti’s initiative, no one has asked how the city and the contracting providers are going to successfully adhere to their low-barrier goals by co-sheltering people and their pets together at the same facility.
As a national non-profit that specializes in supporting homeless service providers in increasing their animal accommodation practices, My Dog Is My Home believes we can’t let this aspect of planning a successful low-barrier shelter go unaddressed.
Individuals experiencing homelessness with animals often fall through the cracks due to the “No Pets Allowed” rule common to many bridge housing and emergency shelters. Because they are denied access to temporary housing, people experiencing homelessness with animals often have difficulty obtaining permanent housing as well. We believe the mayor’s “ Bridge Home” plan has the potential to address this gap.
However, low-barrier services that consider the needs of companion animals must be planned and implemented with care. In order to protect the health of people, animals and the public in these shared spaces, these plans must include hygiene practices that control fleas, address animal behavior training for shelter clients and staff, facilitate access to veterinary medicine, and food resources. At this time, the city’s plan does not address all of these necessities.
We recommend that the city assemble a committee to address the concerns outlined above. Without careful consideration of these needs, the success of Los Angeles co-sheltering pioneers like People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) will not be mirrored in the newly proposed shelters.
We know that the city has many priorities as it sets out to execute this plan, but we urge the city to give thoughtful consideration to the implementation of low-barrier standards involving human-animal co-sheltering to ensure success.