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Open AccessArticle

A Multilevel Intervention Framework for Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness with Pets

1
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
2
Community Veterinary Outreach, Carp, ON K0A 1L0, Canada
3
Independent Researcher, Ridgewood, NY 11385, USA
4
USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of South California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1869; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101869
Received: 27 August 2020 / Revised: 3 October 2020 / Accepted: 6 October 2020 / Published: 13 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Encountering Animals)
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.
Approximately one in 10 people experiencing homelessness have pets. Despite the psychosocial benefits derived from pet ownership, systemic and structural barriers can prevent this group from meeting their basic needs and exiting homelessness. A multilevel framework is proposed for improving the health and well-being of pet owners experiencing homelessness. Informed by a One Health approach, the framework identifies interventions at the policy, public, and direct service delivery levels. Policy interventions are proposed to increase the supply 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. 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 a group that is often overlooked or unaccommodated in efforts to end homelessness. View Full-Text
Keywords: homelessness; homeless youth; pet ownership; companion animals; One Health; housing policy; service delivery; access to care; Housing First; veterinary medicine homelessness; homeless youth; pet ownership; companion animals; One Health; housing policy; service delivery; access to care; Housing First; veterinary medicine
MDPI and ACS Style

Kerman, N.; Lem, M.; Witte, M.; Kim, C.; Rhoades, H. A Multilevel Intervention Framework for Supporting People Experiencing Homelessness with Pets. Animals 2020, 10, 1869.

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