A Multilevel Intervention Framework for Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness with Pets
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
Community Veterinary Outreach, Carp, ON K0A 1L0, Canada
Independent Researcher, Ridgewood, NY 11385, USA
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of South California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 August 2020 / Revised: 3 October 2020 / Accepted: 6 October 2020 / Published: 13 October 2020
Approximately one in 10 people experiencing homelessness have pets. Despite pets having psychosocial benefits for their owners, pets can also present challenges for people experiencing homelessness related to meeting their basic needs and obtaining housing. This article proposes a framework of policy, public, and service interventions for improving the health and well-being of pet owners experiencing homelessness. At the policy level, the framework proposes an increase of pet-friendly emergency shelters, access to market rental housing and veterinary medicine, and the use of a Housing First approach. At the public level, educational interventions are needed to improve knowledge and reduce stigma about the relationship between homelessness and pet ownership. At the service delivery level, direct service providers can support pet owners experiencing homelessness by recognizing their strengths, connecting them to community services, being aware of the risks associated with pet loss, providing harm reduction strategies, documenting animals as emotional support animals, and engaging in advocacy. By targeting policies and service approaches that exacerbate the hardships faced by pet owners experiencing homelessness, the framework is a set of deliberate actions to better support this vulnerable group.