Abigail Owens, the Pets and Housing Engagement Coordinator for south of England and Wales completed her first homelessness service endorsement through the Welcoming Dogs Scheme since starting the role in August 2022.
With the cold weather approaching, people experiencing homelessness with their dogs need somewhere safe and warm to stay throughout the winter period. Our research with Homeless Link shows that less than 10% of hostels are dog friendly. This means that many dog owners are unable to access vital support and accommodation because of their dog. Working with homelessness services to support them in accepting dogs through our Welcoming Dogs endorsement scheme means we can help to keep people and their pets together.
On Wednesday 7th December 2022, Abigail Owens and Harriet Page (Pets and Housing Manager) visited It Takes a City in Cambridge to officially endorse them as a dog friendly service. It Takes a City runs Crossways, a winter provision that will be open for people experiencing street homelessness in Cambridge from November 2022 to March 2023. The accommodation is run in partnership with Cambridge City Council and is part of the SWEP (severe weather emergency provision) protocol which is put in place at this time of year to protect the health and ensure the wellbeing of people sleeping rough in Cambridge during periods of severe weather.
Prior to the in-person consultation Abigail worked with Chris Dade (Support Services Manager) and Lis Silver (Interim CEO/Charity Manager) to create a bespoke policy and dog owner agreement, provided tailored advice and resources on accepting and managing dogs in a safe and responsible way, as well as guidance around registering with the Hope Project veterinary scheme which provides free veterinary treatment for all residents staying at Crossways with their dog.
'‘Working with Chris and Lis was an absolute pleasure. It was clear from the beginning they were enthusiastic about our scheme and were keen to implement policies and procedures that allowed them to welcome dogs into the service, in a safe and responsible way. With it being a short timeframe that the service is open, it was important to move through the process smoothly and efficiently, so I thank them for their collaboration and the warm welcome when we visited in person. We even got to meet Lily, who’s currently living at Crossways with her owner. It was clear she was very happy there and well-loved by everyone in the service.’’
Once the consultation was complete, Abigail was able to award Chris with the Welcoming Dogs Endorsement Certificate which will be on display at Crossways to indicate they are dog-friendly and have been endorsed by our Welcoming Dogs scheme. They will also be featured on our online directory of dog-friendly services. This ensures that dog owners experiencing homelessness can easily find dog-friendly homelessness services which are local to them.
Chris Dade, Service Manager of Crossways, says
"When we developed the model of our Winter Provision, using the "Everyone In" COVID accommodation that we ran for Cambridge City Council as a blueprint, we were determined that we would set up a project that welcomed dog owners. Therefore, we were very pleased when the opportunity to work with the Dogs Trust came along. Abigail has helped us develop a policy and a procedure that reflects the manner in which our project differs from many others - specifically the fact that we are only open for five months of the year - and we were pleased too that she was able to visit us and see how we have created an environment in which the dogs who stay with us are truly valued. With our recognition as a dog friendly service, we can ensure that people in need of accommodation, who may have refused to take the offer of a room elsewhere because their dog couldn't accompany them, can finally get off the streets. In addition, our staff team strongly believes that dogs have a positive effect on the welfare of more than just their owners and this has certainly proven to be the case at Crossways".
We are continuing our work on increasing accommodation and support options for dog owners experiencing homelessness and are calling on more homelessness services across Great Britain to adopt a pet-friendly approach. If you are a homelessness service interested in working with us to help keep people and their pets together, you can get in touch by emailing WelcomingDogs@dogstrust.org.uk.
Find out more about our Welcoming Dogs scheme and how we can support you to become dog-friendly in our Welcoming Dogs section.