+

It’s not uncommon for people passing a homeless person with a dog on the street to voice sympathy for the animal and derision for the human.

Often based on the assumption that a homeless individual is just using a pet for warmth or to guilt people into giving them money, it’s easy to argue that people who can’t take care of themselves could be subjecting animals to deprivation and risk.

This skepticism is so baked into society that some people apparently consider it acceptable to cut the leashes of homeless people’s animals as they sleep, taking them to a better life. Authorities regularly sweep homeless camps, picking up animals, or grill homeless people for proof of animal ownership they may not have and few pet owners would ever keep on their person.


Yet according to a new study, authored by Michelle Lem of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and published last month in the academic journal Anthrozoos, these attitudes and practices may be woefully misguided.

Homeless people with pets, the study argues, are drastically less likely to get depressed or engage in risky behaviors than those without animal friends.

“These pets are their only friends,” the CBC recently quoted Lem as saying, “the only way that they’ve experienced unconditional love… These pets have saved their lives in many cases.”

Lem’s study was small, based on the experiences of 198 street youths in the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Kingston, Ottawa, and Toronto, only 98 of whom had pets.

But it matches with previous studies and the opinions of experts who add that there’s no reason to think cats, dogs, or any other animals on the street suffer more or receive less love and care than those in homes.

All of this suggests that both we and our social institutions need to seriously reevaluate how we assess and accommodate these extremely common but often-vilified human-animal relationships.

“Animals become vehicles for redemption,” writes University of Colorado sociologist Leslie Irvine in a 2013 academic article.

They “encourage a sense of responsibility… reward the fulfillment of that responsibility… [and acting] as silent witnesses, they keep [their owners] from lapsing into risky behavior… [they] allow for the construction of a positive moral identity.”

Image by Laurie Avocado via Flickr

Irvine speaks with great authority on the subject, in no small part because she used to believe differently. Years ago, in the Colorado Desert, she recalls calling animal control on a homeless man who wouldn’t let her “save” his dog from his rough lifestyle.

But after sitting down to properly study the situation, she changed her tune. Her must-read 2013 book My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals is perhaps the greatest repository of hard (rather than knee-jerk) information and solid (rather than emotional) arguments on the subject.

Beyond supporting Lem’s conclusions that animals can help homeless people achieve a sense of connection and avoid a downward spiral, Irving’s works point out that, while they may worry about paying for pet food and veterinary services, the homeless tend to be good pet owners.

They almost never use their pets to score sympathy donations, and almost always prioritize feeding their companions before themselves. Sure, they may not have a roof, but many animals—dogs especially—don’t actually need that human construct. What they need is attention and affection, which homeless owners can often offer more of than owners with houses; there’s no guarantee that an owner with an address is any more caring or capable than a homeless owner.

“Homeless people report levels of attachment to their animals that may surpass those found among the domiciled public,” writes Irvine.

Recognition of the benefits of homeless animal ownership is spreading beyond academia these days as well. A number of shelters have opened up around the world that explicitly welcome and provide for homeless companion critters. And even moreprograms existto helphomeless peoplefind free food, supplies, and veterinary aid for their companions with no risk.

Yet for all the mounting evidence in favor of homeless pet ownership, the vast majority of social services—not just people on the street—still officially reject the idea. In the United Kingdom, only perhaps 9 percent of shelters allow dogs. It’s arguably worse in the United States. More often than not, in order to claim social services, the homeless are compelled to give up their pets.

“They can’t access shelters, they can’t access some addiction treatments, they can’t go into hospitalization,” Lem writes of the situation in Canada, which is not dissimilar to the US.

Image by Steve Willey via Flickr.

Meanwhile the services that cater to homeless pet owners are small; Pets of the Homeless, one of the major advocates for homeless companions and a hard-working charity, only has four part-time employees in their Nevada offices with a budget of just over half a million dollars a year.

As a result, many homeless people eager to seek help wind up sleeping on the streets rather than giving up their pets. This means existing attitudes and policies perpetuate homelessness by threatening to take away one of that population’s greatest aids.

This situation isn’t always a result of knee-jerk assumptions like those made by people on the street who want to “save” homeless pets. Often in the US it’s just the result of regulatory restrictions or a lack of capacity that precludes animals from the homeless services equation.

Those policies, Lem’s study and the works of people like Irvine clearly show, need to change. In order to address homelessness, we need to factor in and respect the value of offering people in that situation a form of companionship, support, and responsibility they often need and desire. We need to make pets a part of our homeless services, not just retroactively but proactively as well, perhaps working the homeless into adoption schemes for neglected animals.

As we do, the inevitable outrage over these programs and policy shifts from the “homeless dogs need saving” camp will hopefully spark dialogue in which the hard facts will win out. For now, the next time any of us feel a reactionary twinge of judgment at the sight of a homeless individual with a pet on the streets, we can start by recognizing our feelings for what they are—a stupid, baseless bias.

This story originally appeared on GOOD.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


Keep ReadingShow less
via LinkedIn

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


A dad from Portland, Oregon, has taken to LinkedIn to write an emotional plea to parents after he learned that his son had died during a conference call at work. J.R. Storment, of Portland, Oregon, encouraged parents to spend less time at work and more time with their kids after his son's death.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

10 things that made us smile this week

Grab your boost of serotonin here.

Polina Tankilevitch/Canva

Upworthy's weekly roundup of joy.

Holy moly—it's fall, y'all!

As pumpkin spice swoops in and we start unpacking our cozy sweaters and cute boots, we can practically taste the seasonal change in the air. Fall is filled with so many small joys—the fresh, crisp smell of apples, the beauty of the leaves as they shift from greens to yellows, oranges and reds, the way the world gets wrapped in a warm glow even as the air grows cooler.

Part of what makes the beauty of fall unique is that it's fleeting. Mother Nature puts on a vibrant show as she sheds what no longer serves her, inviting us to revel in her purposeful self-destruction. It's a gorgeous example of not only embracing change, but celebrating it.

Keep ReadingShow less