Lee Driver, 56, is currently looking after Ziggy, an 11-year-old Staffordshire terrier. Image: Centre for Homelessness Impact
What do you think of when you picture a dog owner experiencing homelessness? The archetypal depiction of a middle-aged man with his dog on a cold pavement may spring to mind, but it’s often far from the reality.
Dogs Trust and the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) have launched a new library of free images to smash that stereotype and reduce the stigma around dog owners experiencing homelessness.
The natural, non-stereotypical photos of loyal pets and their loving owners show the many forms homelessness can take in a bid to tackle negative portrayals. The collection aims to show a realistic and respectful image of homelessness, focusing on individuals and their dogs currently living in hostels and bed and breakfast accommodation, with some also sofa-surfing.
Pups can be a beneficial presence for health and wellbeing, and people experiencing homelessness are no exception: reducing loneliness, isolation and depression. Furry friends can be a crucial lifeline for those without a stable home.
“When I am having a dull time or feeling lonely, Storm can sense it. She jumps straight up and gives me a cuddle. She can sense if I am feeling a bit down or not quite with it, and she keeps me happy. She gives me a routine,” said Kieran, who was photographed with his pup Storm as part of the collection.
“There have been some tough times, and she kept me going. She doesn’t really notice what she means to me, she doesn’t realise what she does. Just her company, going for walks. Having someone to talk to.”
Traditionally, dog ownership can also create barriers for people experiencing homelessness when it comes to accessing support services.
A study from Dogs Trust found that 70% of homelessness services said their clients had experienced barriers when accessing help because of their canine companions. As well as facing issues finding safe, dog-friendly accommodation, dog owners without a home can also face extreme difficulty in finding veterinary treatment when their companions are feeling poorly.
Dogs Trust runs The Hope Project to provide support to dog owners experiencing or at risk of homelessness, through a network of veterinary practices willing to provide free care. They also support homelessness services becoming dog-friendly, in a bid to keep people and their pets together when applying for emergency accommodation.
‘’We’re thrilled to have collaborated with the Centre for Homelessness Impact to add photographs of some of the people we support on the Hope Project and their dogs to this library of images,” said Radi Ivanov from the Hope Project at Dogs Trust.
“We know dog owners experiencing homelessness would often make sure their pets’ needs are met before their own, and we hope these evidence-led images will help tackle some of the misconceptions about homelessness and dog ownership.
Most of the photos in the series were taken by Jeff Hubbard, a photographer with his own personal experience of homelessness. After spending time sleeping rough on the streets, Hubbard learned photography with the help of homeless charity Crisis, where he now runs photography workshops for others.
“Our collection of images underscores the profound significance of dog ownership in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. These images hold the power to transform public perceptions by showcasing the authentic faces and stories of homelessness, diverging from outdated stereotypes,” said Dr Ligia Teixeira, chief executive of Centre for Homelessness Impact.
“By portraying the reality of homelessness with respect and realism, we aim to dismantle misconceptions and foster a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by individuals. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to those who bravely participated in this initiative, united in our mission to combat stigma and promote empathy through compelling evidence.”
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