Since the article was first posted I’ve remained in contact with David, due to his living situation not improving our contact relies solely on visiting his frequent spots once a month.
Pup from homeless litter set to become service dog for Autistic boy.
Leeds housing crisis has not yet significantly improved for those with a furry friend, even though the dogs themselves are giving back to the community.
However, David is lucky as he has managed to secure accommodation with a friend for the past two years. Funding his living situation through the litters born from Khasir, who has been David’s companion her entire life.
One of those pups, who accompanied David today, is in the process of being homed to an autistic boy.
Charlie, the three month old Akita pup, is in training to become a service dog aiding her new owner for the rest of her life.
Though many of David’s dogs have become integral to over half a dozen families it seems that those who refuse to be without their dogs still cannot be accommodated for by local shelters.
Instead they must rely on the hospitality of friends, as David does. Though he fears at some point he will over stay his welcome.
Many of his friendships are that of the families who adopt Khasir’s pups. The litters have spread as far as London to Scotland, many live in Yorkshire still.
Throughout his life on the street he has found great support, and security, from Khasir and, until recently, Gnasher.
Gnasher, mentioned below in the previous post, unfortunately passed away in the last two months due to illness.
This heartbreak still fills David’s eye with tears as he recalls the companionship he found from Gnasher. As any dog owner will know the grief of loosing a dog is like no other, but imagine the intensity of that pain if your dog had been your only friend while sleeping rough.
It has become a vicious cycle of choosing between the companionship and love of his dogs or a chance at council housing.
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Charities in West Yorkshire are being forced to turn away homeless people because they are refusing to give up their dogs.
Many rough sleepers own a pet but organisations which offer shelter cannot take in their animals – some citing hygiene reasons or space issues.
David Hill, 40, has been homeless for the past decade after being made redundant and is the proud owner of two large mongrels, Gnasher and Lucy.
He was present at Gnasher’s birth eight years ago and hasn’t looked back since, even after being turned away from countless shelters in Leeds.
Only once has David been able to stay in a shelter over night, but he was asked to leave the day after when his dog Lucy came into season as it was unsanitary.
“It was either me or the dogs, they’re my only friends. What else could I do?”
Outreach Support Worker Matt Wigley, 29 for Simon on the Streets, who have a base in Leeds, said that: “We would support an individual with a dog in the same way in terms of emotional support and providing food. However, it would make accessing some of those support services an impossibility particularly where accommodation is concerned.
“From speaking to several people who have dogs and are homeless the importance of pets (I’ve seen someone with a ferret!) can be invaluable in terms of giving someone the responsibility and unconditional love which I believe to be key components in an individual’s recovery.
“Having said that it’s not all rosey like a Street Cat Named Bob! The other side of the argument I suppose is that it could be considered cruel to keep dogs on the streets when they have no capacity to choose.”
The main hostel in Leeds, St Georges Crypt, do not facilitate the accommodation of dogs and is the only place that offers a roof over someone’s head in an emergency.
A lot of council properties will not accept dogs which dramatically reduces options for those with dogs, however, Matt Wigley said:
“I believe during Emergency Cold Weather Provision this rule is slackened.”
Communications manager, Lewis Garland for Local Giving have connection in Leeds and work in association with other Leeds organisations.
“Across the UK there are hundreds of grassroots groups and charities working to support homeless people in their area and to tackle associated issues such as mental health and substance use. These groups have an acute awareness of the problems in their area, as well as having long-term trusting relationships with their beneficiaries. These groups understand better than anyone else what is needed for the well-being of the people they work with – as well as any dependent animals they may have.”
Local Giving advise: “for anyone looking to support homeless people in Yorkshire therefore would be to make contact with these local charities such as St. George’s Crypt, and to find out what support that they need – be it volunteers,donations or awareness raising.”
St. George’s Crypt, Leeds, say there are four main things you can offer during this situation:
- Assistance in finding suitable accommodation that allows pets.
- Assistance finding appropriate long-term kennelling if such accommodation cannot be found
- Developing community capacity to provide and give out dog food. (similar to food banks but for dogs!)
- Developing relationships with vets to provide free healthcare.
Andrew Omond, project manager, working at the Crypt advises that these four things are good steps in the right direction for street dogs and their owners.
However, different organisations working alongside the homeless offer different advise on how to help those who find themselves homeless.
- Flow Aid recommend offering sanitary products for homeless women.
- iChange21, Stephanie Chivers, recommends offering: dog food, token for a vet, a cheap phone, socks and a sleeping bag.
- Hannah Bates, 20, works in association with the Salvation Army who advise the public to donate to charities so they can be passed on to the correct people. Items such as bedding, clothes, socks and foods that don’t require the use of kitchen appliances.