A study from the Ontario Veterinary College found that youth experiencing homelessness are less likely to feel depressed and use hard drugs. Chuck Lazenby, the executive director of the Unity Project, says this makes sense. “Historically, any research done into the ownership of pets and mental health and physical health, there is a correlation,” she says, “If you’re experiencing homelessness, certainly having a companion makes it easier.”
However, Lazenby adds, the Unity Project and other London shelters are unable to accommodate that need. “It is very difficult for people who are experiencing homelessness and have pets because they don’t have a lot of options and they don’t want to part with their pets, and that’s understandable.”
She says that the Unity Project has a limited amount of space that would make it difficult for people experiencing homelessness and their pets to stay. She says the SafePet Program will foster the pet while a woman experiencing abuse is staying at a shelter.
Lazenby adds that they would also see if any vets would care for the pet. “The community has been generous in that way, it’s just that there’s not a lot of formal programs that just anybody can access.”
She says that there needs to be more prevention strategies, such as a national housing strategy, a liveable wage and more social support services, to make sure people don’t experience homelessness in the first place. “We just need to make sure that we are advocating towards the government to say we need prevention in place.”