Libraries Can Reach Homeless Patrons by Including Their Dogs

Photo by Alastair Gee for  The Guardian.

Photo by Alastair Gee for The Guardian.

By Corina Bardoff, MSLIS & Christine Kim, MSW

In an attempt to survive the oppressive summer heat, a homeless couple and their dog cower in the diminishing shade of their shopping cart. Just across the street, treasures including books, computers, internet, and above all else on this hot day, air conditioning loom in the public library - a seemingly easy escape from the elements. However, despite the institution’s general mission to freely provide the public with access to information, a growing discussion within the library sciences is uncovering that entry is actually more of a privilege, and one not enjoyed by everyone. Homeless individuals are often seen as nuisances and are unwanted for their smells, luggage, lack of “appropriate” library etiquette, or in some cases, for their pets.

In a recent study exploring the experiences of people who are homeless with animals in Bloomington, IN, library access made a strong and surprising appearance on the list of needs and hardships identified by participants. Other more expected gaps in services created by the “no pets allowed” rule were shelter, permanent housing, and soup kitchens. Participants of the study were particularly apt to mention libraries as a place they wished they could utilize in extreme weather or if the only perceived shelter resource was an overnight shelter in which residents were expected to leave during the day. Next to an actual home, the library seemed to be the most desirable indoor location for human-animal families experiencing homelessness during daylight hours.

However, just about all libraries do not allow pets. Moreover, patrons experiencing homelessness often do not have a safe place to leave their animals while they use the libraries. How can libraries open their doors to homeless human-animal families so they can meet their information needs? This article is a call for imaginative solutions.

There is already one example of libraries welcoming animals into their facilities: many public libraries host programs in which children who are reluctant readers can read to dogs. These well-received therapeutic programs are operated without much worry or criticism that the dogs will trigger allergies or frighten other patrons. Perhaps this could serve as a model for accepting other animals in the library. Therapy dog reading programs usually take place in a limited area to accommodate other patrons who may be allergic or react negatively towards dogs. Likewise, a library allowing other animals on the premises with their humans could designate certain animal-friendly and animal-free zones.

Although requiring that all animals be certified therapy animals to be given entry may be too high a hurdle for homeless patrons, there may be similar behavioral tests their animals can pass, such as the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. A library that wants to make itself more accessible to homeless pet owners could administer the test during targeted outreach events, such as the service fair for companion animals of the homeless in Bloomington, IN where the study was conducted.

Libraries can even partner with innovative companies like Dog Parker in Brooklyn, which offers climate-controlled dog houses where subscribers to the service can leave their dog for a limited time. At a library, the service could be connected to a patron’s library card. Brooklyn Public Library already holds a similar partnerships with ZipCar, allowing the company to park their cars in branch parking lots in exchange for discounts to library cardholders and monetary support to  branch programs. Using something like Dog Parker as a creative tool to address unequal library access for homeless patrons with animals would also benefit patrons with dogs who are not experiencing homelessness, serving the entire community.

Libraries are the new frontier of homeless services in general. Along with the growing trend of libraries hiring social workers and other outreach workers, public libraries across the country demonstrate great creativity in the programs they offer to welcome, include, and assist patrons experiencing homelessness. Some host casual coffee conversations where patrons can connect with one another and staff, as well as receive referrals to social support services. The Salt Lake City Public Library hosted a resource fair called Project Uplift that connected patrons experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with information and resources, plus free meals. The Dallas Public Library offers one-on-one assistance with referrals, resume and career help, and more at their “Homeless Engagement and Leadership Program desk,” or “HELP Desk.” Library staff and social workers should also consider creating relationships with animal welfare organizations, giving them yet another tool to engage homeless library patrons.

Now that this previously invisible problem of unequal access to the library among homeless pet owners has come to light, there is an opportunity for libraries to think creatively about solutions that fit their entire community’s needs. Of course, the onus to be inclusive is not solely on the library--the whole homeless service system needs to make accommodations for people with animals. If shelters, housing programs, and other social services that help prevent and end homelessness make arrangements for animals, these human-animal families may not have to yearn for the safety of a library. Moreover, whole systems--federal to local to the individual-- must make a shift in the way we address homelessness altogether. Until there is a serious commitment to end and prevent homelessness, with a definition of homelessness that includes people with animals, outposts like the library will continue to feel the effects of the faltering welfare system.   

Advocacy Alert -- US Interagency Council on Homelessness calls for feedback

The US Interagency's Council on Homelessness' (USICH) current federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors, has been opened to feedback from stakeholders across federal, national, state and local organizations. 

If you are a representative of a group that works with or advocates for the homeless, please email USICH to request that their strategy address the unequal access to shelter and housing experienced by homeless pet owners. Please remember to include specific recommendations, such as including the promotion of pet-friendly practices in shelters and housing programs, and strengthening relationships with animal welfare organizations to address the intersecting needs of animals and people.

To send your comments to USICH, review their Participation Guide and use their Recommendations Form.

Advocacy Alert -- PAWS Act

Did you know that only three percent of domestic violence shelters allow companion animals? Without a safe environment for their animals, as many as one-third of those subjected to domestic violence delay their decision to leave a violent situation out of fear for their animals' safety. Perpetrators of domestic violence are known to kill or injure pets and use them to manipulate the victim to stay in or return to the abusive situation.

The Pets and Women Safety (PAWS) Act will help bridge the gap between the tremendous need for services for domestic violence survivors with companion animals and the ability of agencies to meet those needs. Under this act, domestic violence protections to include pets, and by establishing a federal grant program to assist in acquiring a safe shelter for companion animals.

Please speak up to protect pets and women from domestic violence by making a brief phone call to your legislators. You can say, "I am a constituent, and I am calling to ask you to please cosponsor S.322/H.R.909, the Pet and Women Safety Act, and do all that you can to support it to help pets and victims of domestic violence." You can also use the Humane Society's form to send an email message to your legislator.

Bloomington, IN Service Fair #2

We are getting ready for our second service fair in Bloomington, IN. This year we are partnering with Trinity Episcopal Church, a participant of Bloomington's interfaith winter shelter system, who will graciously host us after their Blessing of the Animals service on September 30th. 

Do you live in Bloomington? Consider making a donation of supplies to the service fair. Please drop off any pet supplies and winter items (blankets, gloves, sweaters, etc.) that you would like to give to the community on Saturday, September 30th by 10AM at Trinity Episcopal. You can also help us with outreach. Please download the flyer and post it in locations where the homeless congregate and pass the information along to anyone you know who works in social services.

A Message from Myra Vandenberg--Original Participant of the My Dog is My Home films

It has been four years since Prince and I participated in the My Dog is My Home documentary series. AND four years since Prince and I have come off the streets to find a place to call home. Wow! What a ride we have been on since then! For one, Prince was joined by a brother who I adopted from some folks who lived right around the corner from the original location of The Animal Museum--where My Dog is My Home was founded! I named Prince's adopted brother Happy, because that's exactly what he is and how he makes both me and Prince feel every day!

I am wonderfully blessed to share my life with Happy and Prince. I take pleasure in their unconditional love and loyalty, and I happily return it in kind. At the same time, I worry.

On June 22, 2017 I turned 65. Shortly after I had a mild stroke. It was a frightening time, and all I could think about was my dogs. What if I could no longer take care of them? What if I died before them? Who will care for them like I do? The thought of my two beloved pets ending up in a shelter was enough to send chills down my spine. 

On top of that, Prince suffered a tick infestation and earlier in the year, he was diagnosed with heart worm. And Happy was not making it easy for Prince or for me to rest! Happy may be happy, but sometimes his puppy energy can be trying. But with caring organizations like My Dog is My Home and my new friends at Bark Avenue Foundation, I found the support I needed to help pull us through rough times.

There have been a number of challenges we have had to face as a family. But I would never abandon my boys in times like these, because they have been there for me, through homelessness, through sickness and health--through thick and thin! 

Thank you for caring about us. And thank you for fighting a good fight for others like us. We hope that this is just the beginning of a movement to help the people and animals who find a home in each other despite having little else.

Celebrating Unsung Heroes of the Animal Advocacy Movement - Nominations Now Open for the LISA SHAPIRO AWARDS

My Dog is My Home is proud to be a part of the judging panel for the 2017 Lisa Shapiro Awards honoring the unsung heroes of the global animal advocacy movement. Nominations are now officially open! Please help us say thank you to your favorite inspiring grassroots animal activists by nominating them at thepollinationproject.org/hero. This year’s award comes with a no-strings-attached $2,500 cash prize. Nominations are open until August 13.

"Multispecies Care and Poverty Politics" Article Published in Feminist Geography Journal

Gender, Place, and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography recently published an academic article that uses the My Dog is My Home art exhibition to study and politicize the human-animal bond in circumstances of homelessness. By using feminist care theory to examine the narratives within the exhibit, the authors challenge conventional views of poverty, property, and relationships that render homeless lives disposable. When asked why she chose to write the article about My Dog is My Home, Kathryn Gillespie--co-author and post-doctoral fellow in Animal Studies at Wesleyan University--stated,

"We have both been so moved by the work you and the experts of My Dog is My Home are doing. We learned a lot that has informed our own respective thinking in animal studies and relational poverty studies from the project."

Read the article abstract below. If you'd like to view the full article and you have access to a university library, click here to be taken to the online journal. If you do not have access to a university library, please contact Kathryn Gillespie at kathryn.a.gillespie@gmail.com for a PDF of the full paper.

 

‘My Dog is My Home’: multispecies care and poverty politics in Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas

Kathryn Gillespie & Victoria Lawson (2017): ‘My Dog is My Home’: multispecies care and poverty politics in Los Angeles, California and Austin, Texas, Gender, Place & Culture, DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2017.1339021

Abstract

My Dog is My Home is an art activist project in Los Angeles dedicated to sharing testimonies about the redemptive bonds of care and love between homeless persons and their canine companions. These testimonies politicize the structural violence and oppressive norms about propertied citizenship and notions of home that operate to render homeless human and animal lives disposable and ungrievable. Informed by the experts’ testimonies on multispecies homelessness and an engagement with feminist care theory, we bring relational poverty studies into conversation with critical animal studies to reject this framing of homeless lives as disposable and to trouble the idea of property as the fundamental basis for value. We problematize these notions by highlighting the insights gained from witnessing the entangled empathetic relationships forged between homeless humans and dogs. These relationships are not only a window into the political economic material conditions and discourses that reproduce homelessness and the animal-as-property. We conclude that studying these bonds offers a collective politics of multispecies mutuality, care, and love.

HUD's New Joint Component Projects Require Pet Accommodation

Thanks to a pet-friendly transitional housing program, Spirit and Miniaga can now be at ease in their long-awaited permanent home. HUD is now planning more low-barrier, pet-friendly programs designed to quickly move people experiencing homelessness  and  their animals into permanent housing.

Thanks to a pet-friendly transitional housing program, Spirit and Miniaga can now be at ease in their long-awaited permanent home. HUD is now planning more low-barrier, pet-friendly programs designed to quickly move people experiencing homelessness and their animals into permanent housing.

Spirit and Miniaga (pictured above) were once among the uncounted number of homeless human-animal families who struggle to find shelter or housing together. Luckily, Spirit found his way into a rare pet-friendly transitional housing program that eventually paved the way to permanent housing. Soon, people experiencing homelessness with their companion animals may not have to rely on luck to find respite for the whole family. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has created a new tool to help communities combat rising homelessness. Communities will soon be able to apply for a new type of government sponsored housing program called "joint component" projects, which combine the activities of transitional housing* and rapid re-housing**. Joint component projects will provide crisis housing, financial assistance, and wrap around services*** with the goal of moving program participants into permanent housing as soon as possible. People should be able to access their brief stay without pre-conditions, meaning that such projects have low barriers to entry. Pet ownership is listed as one of the circumstances that must be accommodated in order to meet joint component housing's low-barrier requirements. 

In the department's most recent notice on joint component housing, HUD also stresses thoughtful planning of projects, asking communities to establish performance benchmarks for their programs. Among the questions HUD recommends communities consider when developing performance measures is:

"How well will the project accommodate people with a variety of needs, including different household configurations, service needs, or pets?"

Funding and applications for joint component projects are not yet available. To read more about joint component projects, click here

*Transitional Housing - A project that has as its purpose facilitating the movement of homeless individuals and families to permanent housing within a reasonable amount of time (usually 24 months). Transitional housing includes housing primarily designed to serve deinstitutionalized homeless individuals and other homeless individuals with mental or physical disabilities and homeless families with children.

**Rapid Re-Housing - An intervention informed by a Housing First approach which rapidly connects families and individuals experiencing homelessness to permanent housing through a tailored package of assistance that may include the use of time-limited financial assistance and targeted supportive services.

***Wrap Around Services - Wraparound is a term used to describe a process by which service providers agree to collaborate to improve the lives of children, families and adults by creating, enhancing, and accessing a coordinated system of support through a strengths-based, client-driven model. An emphasis is placed on identifying and enhancing the client’s natural and informal supports, or to assist them in finding new informal supports.

Internship Opportunity

Do you have an interest in organizational capacity building? Consider joining the My Dog is My Home team to help us with one or more of our national projects. We are currently looking for Community Organizing and Program Development interns for the 2017-2018 academic year. Our multi-pronged approach to increasing access to shelter and housing for homeless human-animal families will give interns experience in comprehensive community assessment, education and training, building sustainable partnerships, and identifying and promoting effective practices.

Interns will work closely with MDIMH’s leadership and local partners to support capacity building efforts in Philadelphia, PA; Bloomington, IN; Toledo, OH; and other cities as needed. Partnering organizations that interns will be asked to engage will be from both animal welfare and homeless service fields.

This internship is remote, 14-21 hours per week.

Visit the "Work With Us" page for a full description of the internship.

Art Exhibition and Social Work Continuing Education Event

REGISTER FOR CEUs TODAY

Homelessness and Animal Companionship in Toledo and Nationally

Held in partnership between University of Toledo’s (UT) Social Work Program and My Dog is My Home

 

Exhibit open for viewing from 5:00PM - 8:00PM

Continuing Education presentation from 6:00PM - 8:00PM

Presentation attendees are eligible to receive 2 social work CEUs.

 

Cherry Street Mission Ministries' Life Revitalization Center

1501 Monroe Street

2nd floor library

Toledo, OH 43604

 

Exhibit Overview:

My Dog is My Home, a national organization dedicated to increasing shelter and housing access for homeless people with companion animals, is bringing a pop-up version of its landmark art exhibition to Toledo, OH this September. Featuring photographs, paintings, and historical prints, the show illuminates the life-saving and often misunderstood bond between homeless people and their pets. The organization’s founder and director, Christine Kim, curated the show for the Los Angeles based Animal Museum in 2013. My Dog is My Home continues to use the exhibit as a tool to start discussions with communities across the country about creating resources for homeless pet owners.

The exhibition will be on view at Cherry Street Mission Ministries' Life Revitalization Center’s library hall on Monday, October 2, from 5:00PM - 8:00PM. A special social work continuing education presentation on the topic of homelessness and animal companionship in Toledo and nationally will be taking place in the inside the library from 6:00PM - 8:00PM. Both components of the evening are free and open to the public, with the exception of a processing fee for attendees interested in obtaining social work CEUs. The exhibition will remain open and on view while the presentation is taking place.  

 

Presentation Overview:

On February 18, 2017, My Dog is My Home (MDIMH), the University of Toledo's (UT) Social Work Program, Humane Ohio, Toledo’s PET Bull Project, and Toledo Area Humane Society partnered to bring free services to companion animals of the homeless. While the event was designed to deliver services that directly benefitted animals, one of the service fair objectives was to document the unique human needs and circumstances that present themselves in human-animal homelessness. As previous research shows, when faced with a "no pets allowed" rule in shelter and housing, people experiencing homelessness will often forego these services to care for their furry family members.

But the narrative of Toledo's population has yet to be told. With the location-specific data that researchers from My Dog is My Home and the UT Social Work Program collected from the service fair, we can begin to paint a more nuanced picture of the state of homelessness and animal companionship in Toledo, including what local providers can do to bridge the gap in services. The UT Social Work Program and My Dog is My Home will be presenting the findings at at a social work continuing education (CE) event which will be held at Cherry Street Mission Ministries’ Life Revitalization Center in downtown Toledo. The event will be composed of two parts -- (1) an art exhibition and (2) a formal CE presentation. Attendees are eligible to receive 2 social work CEUs from the event.

All parts of the event will be open and free to the public; however, only the presentation will count as a CE activity. For attendees who wish to obtain social work CEUs, My Dog is My Home will be charging a processing fee and requires pre-registration. For registration information, please visit the Eventbrite page linked below.

 

CEU Registration: Click here

 

Contact Information:

For CEU related inquiries

University of Toledo College of Health and Human Services

Social Work Program in the School of Social Justice

419-383-4000

utmc.webmaster@utoledo.edu

 

For all other inquiries

My Dog is My Home

917-765-6843

christine@mydogismyhome.org

Happy Pride Month!

A foundational question My Dog is My Home has always asked itself, it's supporters, and it's challengers is "What is home?" This June, we are reminded to also ask "What is family?" 

My Dog is My Home believes that the matter of animals as family is related to other critical discussions about family. Despite great institutional gains, society continues to grapple with the idea that our families' strongest ties are not limited to biology or tradition. Growing pains can be felt in our work, where we see the disproportionate challenges alternative families face when attempting to obtain services. The battle ensues on political and interpersonal grounds, in instances ranging from equal access to housing to equal services at a florist*. So in our commitment to challenging dusty notions of what a family can and should look like, we support and align ourselves with other movements that also struggle for the empowerment of their families. 

Family should be defined by the commitment and care amongst its members, regardless of its members' housing status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other characteristic that may differ from the mainstream. As Myra, a formerly homeless My Dog is My Home ambassador and Hollywood trans community member, well states,

I have a lover and I have my dogs. I'm not going anywhere without them--home, street, or wherever. We may not look like the family that came out of Home and Garden magazine, but that's what we are. And I'll be damned if anyone tells me differently.

Happy Pride Month! 

 

*Ingersoll v Arlene's Flowers - A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled in February 2017 that a florist violated the Washington state’s anti-discrimination law when she denied service to a gay couple for their wedding. The ruling came in a lawsuit (Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers) filed by the ACLU on behalf of Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll.

Philadelphia Pet Food Pantry Now OPEN

Thanks to the incredible work of Philadelphia's Home Run Collective, a new pet food pantry for homeless human-animal families is now stocked and open for distribution! My Dog First, the service and program development arm of Home Run Collective, will be working with My Dog is My Home on other initiatives in the Philadelphia area, including a service fair for companion animals of the homeless this fall.  

The pet food pantry is not open for walk-ins. To access the pantry, potential clients must have a referral from a Philadelphia outreach team. For more information, please contact the Outreach Coordination Center at 215-232-1984.

Why Science Matters to My Dog is My Home

In these times of unabashed alternative facts, My Dog is My Home believes it is more important than ever to uphold and highlight one of our foundational values, which states--

Approaches that are creative and grounded in evidence are not only possible but necessary to address complex and intersecting social problems

Through our commitment to building the evidence base* for addressing homelessness and animal companionship, we are fighting the rise of scientific ignorance in public policy. To safeguard our operations from personal agendas and ego, we commit to basing our actions on an accurate understanding of the problem and its solutions. We do this by working to "distinguish between what feels good and what's true"**, which is why we begin every project in a new community with a thorough assessment. If the results of the assessment show something different than what we expect to see, our understanding of the problem is enriched by the new information and our approaches are tailored to meet the needs that have revealed themselves through the scientific process. In short, data matters in our endeavor to produce the greatest positive impact possible.

If you didn't get a chance to read our assessment on Bloomington, IN in last month's newsletter, click HERE for the report.

*What is evidence based practice? As defined by the Social Work Policy Institute, "Evidence-based practice is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience and ethics, and client preferences and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services." 

**Sagan, C. (1995). The Demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. New York: Random House.

First Annual Couch or 5K Fundraiser - Philadelphia, PA

My Dog is My Home is partnering with My Dog First, a volunteer group from Philadelphia which has formed to provide pet supplies to homeless and low-income animal guardians. Together, My Dog is My Home and My Dog First will organize the City of Brotherly Love's first service fair for companion animals of the homeless this winter. If you live in the Philadelphia area, please support our efforts by attending the Home Run Collective's "Couch or 5K" fundraiser on April 22nd. 

Date: Saturday, April 22, 2017
Time: Race begins at 9am SHARP
Location: The Woodlands - 4000 Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
What: 5K race around the cemetery bottomless coffee and vegan donuts (from Dottie's Donuts), outdoor pop-up lounge, fundraiser, raffle, and supply drive. 
Race Entry Fee: $35 in advance, $40 same-day registration
Other Notes: DOGS WELCOME!

For more details, visit Home Run Collective's Facebook event page

Indiana Senate Bill 314

My Dog is My Home has teamed up with Street Outreach and Animal Response from Indianapolis to advocate for Indiana's passing of Senate Bill 314, which will give judges the ability to include pets in protective orders issued to survivors of domestic violence.

SOAR and My Dog is My Home urge Indiana residents to contact your representative. Ask them to not only support this legislation, but to request an amendment--that the law extend protection to guarantee a survivor's right to access shelter with their animal. 

Find your representative's name and contact information here.

Need guidance on what to say to your representative? See the ASPCA's Advocacy Alert on SB 314 for talking points and an example of an email you can send to your representative. But don't forget to customize! Remember to include a request to expand the bill so companion animals in orders of protection can access shelters with their families. Use the text below as an example.

Thirty-two states already allow pets to be included in orders of protection, and I would like to see Indiana allow for it as well. But most domestic violence shelters do not have pet-friendly policies. I also urge you to expand this bill to ensure pets in protective orders are able to enter shelters with their families. 

Advocacy Research Day

My Dog is My Home is to be a featured speaker at IPSL's Second Annual Advocacy Research Day at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Speakers include students and organizations using research as a means to advocate for social, economic and racial justice! This event is free and open to any member of the community. Click here to learn more about attending the conference.

Date: Thursday, March 30, 2017

Time: 10am - 6pm

Location: College of Mount Sinai Saint Vincent in Riverdale, NY

Downtown Dog Rescue's Pet Resource Center - A Year in Review

Over twenty years ago, Lori Weise informally began providing services to the homeless animal guardians of Skid Row. The beginnings of her organization, Downtown Dog Rescue, started behind the Modernica furniture company's warehouse, where she organized free spay/neuter, mobile clinics, and distribution of pet supplies. After Modernica moved to Compton, Downtown Dog Rescue also moved its focus to the South Central LA area. After a long hiatus, Downtown Dog Rescue has returned to its roots in the Skid Row community. 

In 2016, Downtown Dog Rescue opened the Pet Resource Center on Skid Row--a place where Skid Row residents can obtain supplies, medical treatment, and other services for their companion animals. Below are some of the statistics they gathered from their year of services. To read more about what they accomplished this year, please visit the Downtown Dog Rescue website.

 

Service Provided

  • 50% of clients received spay/neuter services
  • 80% of clients received pet food
  • 30% of clients received a collar and leash
  • 31%  of clients received vaccines
  • 25% of clients received microchips
  • 10% requested medical assistance for their animal
  • 36% of clients were given flea medication
  • 30% of clients requested assistance with obtaining a letter stating that their animal is an Emotional Support Animal

 

Demographics

  • 50% of clients were experiencing homelessness
  • 38% of clients had a case manager working with them
  • The majority of clients were between the ages of 30 – 69
  • 65% of clients were unemployed
  • 60% of clients were women
  • 60% of clients were receiving public assistance
  • 35% of clients had some college experience or a degree
  • 65% of clients completed high school or up to 8th grade
  • Almost half the client population was African American
  • 27% of clients were Hispanic
  • 19% of clients were Caucasian 

 

Surveying for Animal Companionship in the Homeless Point-in-Time Count

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.