Lara Shannon: Our pets provide us with comfort, security and friendship. In return we want to care for them as best we can. So how would you feel if you and your pet were facing or experiencing homelessness? It’s a scary thought isn’t it? Fortunately, Pets of the Homeless are helping people in need.
So, we’re going to find out a little about their work.
Lara Shannon: Yvonne why did you start Pets of the homeless?
Yvonne Hong: I noticed there was a gap in homelessness sector that nobody was really addressing. While we are so focused on helping the people, we often forget about the pets who are so important for someone’s health and mental well-being. A lot of people that we have helped in the past have told us how hard it is to get into safe housing with your pets and they would rather sleep on the streets than having to give your pet up.
For example, you and I we have family and friends to be with us during times of hardship, whereas for people who are socially isolated their pets are the only source of love, comfort and companionship for them. So, to ask them to be separated from their pet it’s like asking them to give up their family and friends.
Lara Shannon: Who do help with the service?
Yvonne Hong: We started off by helping rough sleepers on the streets of Melbourne. From there the word grew about what we do and now we receive a lot of referrals through social workers and we assist all vulnerable pet owners from pensioners, to victims of domestic and family violence as well.
Lara Shannon: And then what are some of the services that people can use through Pets of the Homeless?
Yvonne Hong: The first thing we do is provide assistance with pet food, we also provide assistance of veterinary care and emergency boarding. As you can see here today, we are actually packing big bags of pet food into smaller more manageable sizes for us to distribute to places like soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless and support services.
Lara Shannon: What are some of the key outcomes that you see by doing this?
Yvonne Hong: By helping keep people and their pets together we’re actually reducing the number of healthy animals that are being surrendered to the shelter and having to be euthanized due to financial hardships.
What we see is also pets will inspire conversation and help the broader community understand that people who are homeless are not less deserving of love and companionship, just like the rest of us.
Lara Shannon: How can you do with some help from the people watching this, to help do more?
Yvonne Hong: We need a lot more volunteers, we definitely need funding to be able to continue the work that we do. We do spend a lot of money on paying for emergency boarding in catteries and kennels.
Lara Shannon: Of course!
Roxanne: Pets of the Homeless came into my life when I was in a really difficult spot. I was in the city and someone who had used Pets of the Homeless before told me to contact them and that they would be able to help. So, me and Onyx went to one of their clinics they checked her over, gave her food, a new bed, some toys and a month’s supply of food. They gave her so many toys she didn’t know which one to play with first and she was jumping from toy to toy.
Lara Shannon: How has being able to stay together with Onyx helped you and her, I guess?
Roxanne: It’s helped my mental health, my physical health and I am able to do a lot more now than when I first lost my hand and I don’t think that’s ability, I think that it's more mental and what I believe I can do. Onyx has got me off antidepressants, she’s completely changed my life for the better.
Lara Shannon: As you can see Pets of the Homeless are doing some great work, so if you would like to find out how you can support them visit their website.