by Pete Monte, Animal Welfare Coordinator, GRACE Marketplace
January 2020 marked the beginning of a two-year demonstration project funded by the Wagmore Foundation to establish infrastructure, policy, and procedure to make GRACE Marketplace the first “animal-friendly” low-barrier homeless shelter in the region.
A community partnership of local non-profit organizations including St. Francis Pet Care, the Humane Society of North Central Florida, and the Home Van Pet Care Project have joined GRACE with the common goal of improving access to services for people without housing and their companion or assistance animals.
Co-sheltering people and animals is an emerging practice at the intersection of social services and animal welfare, founded on the principle that the human-animal bond is valuable and worth preserving through times of homelessness.
Studies on this relationship highlight positive impacts such as physical, psychological, and social support for people and their animals. As a result, commitment to their animals ultimately leads people experiencing homelessness to put the needs of their animals, who most view as family, before their own. Animal related barriers to ending homelessness are not limited to basic needs but exist throughout many aspects of life and require a comprehensive and coordinated approach in navigating or eliminating them altogether.
The Co-Sheltering and Animal Welfare Program compliments regular shelter services at GRACE by providing animal accommodations for people entering emergency shelter. Overnight and day-use kenneling in addition to a food and supply bank are meant to meet many basic and immediate needs for our guests.
A monthly on-site veterinary clinic is provided by St. Francis Pet Care to provide basic veterinary care including examinations, vaccinations, deworming, microchipping, preventive medication and more.
The Humane Society of North Central Florida provides similar services off-site and includes emergency veterinary care. Both organizations provide spay/neuter services and receive significant support from PetSmart Charities, the largest financial supporter of animal welfare in the United States.
Among practitioners of co-sheltering, dedicated staff is a unique program feature. At GRACE, the Animal Welfare Coordinator is responsible for coordinating all animal services, providing oversight of animal welfare, and ensuring the health and safety of staff, guests, and visitors. Additionally, the Animal Welfare Coordinator offers outreach and education including counseling on topics such as nutrition, behavior, and responsible ownership.
As more communities experiment with co-sheltering and begin to challenge the “no pets allowed” culture within social services, GRACE has committed to adopting the model after less than a year.
General outcomes of the Co-Sheltering and Animal Welfare Program for 2020 include dozens of people accessing critical shelter or housing and many more receiving supportive services. Thousands of pounds of pet food have been distributed and upwards of 100 animals have received veterinary care or some beneficial intervention. There were many contributing factors to a successful first year, but this endeavor and its impacts would otherwise not be possible without the generous support of the Wagmore Foundation.
All inquiries contact the Animal Welfare Coordinator at: firstname.lastname@example.org