A charity is delivering special ‘canine hampers’ for homeless people to give to their dogs over the festive period.
Dogs Trust, which has a rehoming centre in Ilfracombe, is the charity once again trying to bring some festive cheer to dogs and their owners who are experiencing homelessness or living in housing crisis this Christmas.
The UK’s largest dog welfare charity has been running its unique Hope Project for more than 25 years.
Throughout the year, the Hope Project supports people who are experiencing homelessness and have a four-legged friend, and every Christmas it delivers canine hampers filled with treats, toys, collars, leads and warm winter dog coats.
This year 61 dogs across Devon are set to benefit from the Christmas parcel service and one of those dogs is Scout*, who Sarah* has owned for 11 years.
Sarah has lived in a caravan for almost 19 years, and during that time the Hope Project has been able to help her with vet bills for Scout.
“Having a dog has definitely made finding permanent housing more difficult,” Sarah said.
“Scout is very well-behaved but because I’m with him, housing is unavailable. Giving him up is not an option for me, so it has made accessing housing a challenge.
“Scout means the world to me and having him with me means I don’t feel as lonely.
“Without the help of the Hope Project I would have struggled to access vet care. Having this financial burden lifted means that I can afford good food both for Scout and for myself.”
This year, the Hope Project has adapted its services in light of the pandemic to include supporting hotels and emergency accommodation providers who were accommodating people sleeping rough as part of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ scheme, to accept their four-legged friends too.
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It has also sent out more than 1,200 tins of emergency dog food for more than 50 dogs to support people and their pets during this pandemic.
Harriet Page, outreach projects development co-ordinator, said: “Dogs are an incredible source of companionship, support and love for people who are homeless, but it is often so much more difficult for people to find housing simply because they have a canine friend.
“We’re delighted to be able to provide free veterinary care and other support to anyone who is experiencing homelessness or in housing crisis like Sarah and Scout, as well as running our Welcoming Dogs scheme, supporting housing providers and homelessness services to become dog friendly, ensuring that no dog owner has to choose between staying with their dog or accessing accommodation.
“We’re so pleased to be able to deliver so many Christmas hampers this year across Devon. Not only will they deliver some festive cheer, but these doggy essentials will help dogs keep warm and safe during the winter.”
To find out more about the Hope Project’s ‘Welcoming Dogs’ service go to dogstrusthopeproject.org.uk.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.