THE HOPE PROJECT
By Ann Evans
Photos courtesy of Dogs Trust
It’s so sad to see anyone living rough and homeless on the streets, and when you see that unfortunate person’s only friend seems to be their dog – usually snuggled up under their blanket with them, then it’s just as worrying and pitiful.
Dog lovers are always concerned when seeing people and their pets in these sorry circumstances, and while it’s natural to be concerned about the person, as a nation of animal lovers, it’s also natural to worry that the dog is getting fed and exercised and given necessary veterinary care.
Anyone who has stopped to talk to a homeless person about their plight could very well be informed that they could get into a shelter, but not with their dog. And usually abandoning their best friend isn’t an option.
There is light on the horizon however, as Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has an ongoing project called The Hope Project which began in 1994 in London and now functions in 103 towns and cities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The Hope Project provides advice to dog owners who are homeless or in housing crisis. It also offers free and subsidised veterinary care for their dogs. Dogs who become part of this scheme are entitled to free flea and worming treatments, vaccinations, neutering and microchipping. Dogs Trust will also subsidise most additional treatments that the dogs may need.
The Hope Project also works to encourage homelessness organisations to change their policy on ‘no dogs’ and allow dogs into hostels. Sadly, the majority of accommodation providers for homeless people in the UK still operate a ‘no dogs’ policy. In fact only 9 per cent of hostels are dog friendly.
Dogs Trust say that when a homeless person is forced to choose between their dog and a place in a hostel, they will most likely choose to stay with their dog who is their main friend and companion. The charity point out that the bond between a dog and its owner is a strong one, but never more so than with homeless people.
Amongst the many things that The Hope Project strives to do is to offer advice and support to hostels to help them begin accepting dogs. They point out that there are massive reasons for accepting dogs into homeless accommodation and not just for the dog owner and their dog.
Obviously the owner gets shelter, help and support, and likewise the dog gets somewhere warm and dry to sleep too. But the hostel staff and other residents will also benefit from having a dog around the place.
Reports back from dog friendly hostels say that having a dog living at the hostel seems to lighten the atmosphere and give the place a more homely feel. They point out that dogs are also great ice breakers, and talking to a resident about his dog usually draws them out of their shell, and so helps staff in providing the necessary support and advice that the person might need.
Who can the Hope Project help?
The Hope Project Veterinary Scheme is open to any dog owner who is homeless or in temporary housing, for example:
- Rough sleeping
- Living in a hostel
- Living in a night shelter
- Living in temporary accommodation
- Sofa surfing
- Living on an unauthorised travellers site
Homelessness Organisations – Find Out More
If you are a homelessness organisation in one of the 103 areas where the Hope Project scheme currently runs, you can make online applications for your clients and their dogs via this link: https://www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/help-with-veterinary-costs/how-to-apply.
If you are a homelessness organisation outside of the scheme areas just contact Dogs Trust to see how they can help you.
Dog Owners Find Out More
Homeless dog owners can apply to the Hope Project Veterinary Scheme through a participating homelessness organisation in any of their 103 scheme areas. Ask your local homelessness organisation if they take part in the Dogs Trust scheme.
If you are not in touch with any of the organisations that participate in this scheme, contact Dogs Trust directly. www.dogstrust.org.uk
Dogs Trust also provide a directory of dog-friendly hostels in partnership with Homeless UK:
You can contact the Dogs Trust Hope Project by telephone, email, fax or post:
Dogs Trust Hope Project
17 Wakley Street
T: 020 7837 0006
F: 020 7833 8798