It has been just over a year since I penned “Housing Gone Wrong – The Life (and Death) of John Chadwick“. You may recall that I was contacted by Dee Bonnett in Maidstone, England whom altered me to this tragedy: John Chadwick, formerly homeless for 10 years, was evicted from his housing due to a change in ownership. John was offered accommodation at a bed and breakfast (B&B) however he would have to give up his dogs Theo and Tinkerbell, and a cat, Gizmo. He ended his own life rather than give up his pets.
I have found that the homeless (or formerly homeless) take care of the their pets better than non-homeless. The rationale is simple: their pets will unconditionally love them no matter how dire their circumstances are. Most will offer food and comfort to their pets even if it means they themselves go hungry. Fortunately many communities are served by charitable organizations such as the Community Pet Project here in Florida and Dogs on the Street in London, England that offer vital services to homeless pets and their keepers.
What has changed in the last year? In Maidstone, England, the tireless work of Dee Bonnett has resulted in a new pet policy that allows those moving into council accommodations to keep their pets. In Manchester, the groundbreaking research of Winston Churchill Memorial Trust fellow Amy Varle was published, attracting the attention of Number 10.
Here in Florida, we do not have any low-barrier shelters that accept pets, however charitable organizations such as the Community Pet Project can sometimes offer pet fostering or boarding at local pet resorts. In my work in police homeless outreach, our community offers permanent, supportive housing that allows pets (I will never permanently separate the homeless from their pets).
Where do we go from here? The process to end homelessness (including those with pets) requires political support. Ending homelessness is not glamorous nor sexy, and does not bring in the votes. The only elected official that I am aware of that campaigned on a platform of addressing homelessness is Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. There is no mystery to this; we know how to end homelessness (with housing) however achieving this requires political buy-in and a real commitment towards positive change (where is your community?)
On a related note, I am excited to have crossed paths over the past year with many brilliant and talented folks that are committed to ending homelessness. Stay tuned to my Twitter feed @HomelessPolice next week when Dee Bonnett, Amy Varle, myself and several others will meet in London. For most of us, this will be the first time we have met each other in person and I am beyond excited and honored to be meeting them.