A Veterinarian Pioneers Trauma-Informed Care For Homeless Pets

a homeless woman with a pair of dogs.
This scene was created by affordablehousingaction.org and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Trauma-informed care takes account of the possibility that a person who is seeking services has experienced trauma. For people who are homeless, the possibility of experiencing trauma is much higher than the population as a whole1.

The article linked below is surely an example of trauma-informed care. This is about Kwane Stewart, a veterinarian in California who helps homeless people to take care of their pets. Stewart practices in tent encampments, RVs (Recreational Vehicles) and other outdoor spaces. Commenting on the pets and their owners, Stewart observes, “They live in the shadows….They live amongst us but not with us.”

Janie McCauley, who accompanied Stewart to prepare her story, reports on the strong attachment between owners and pets. Journalists in other cities have noted the connection, too2.

Emergency shelters, which are an entry point for leaving homelessness, often bar pets. Forcing people who are homeless to give up a key support in their lives to gain admission seems like the very opposite of trauma-informed care. Yet the practice persists. And when shelters accepts pets, it’s newsworthy3.

To be clear, shelter workers and managers (who are often own pets themselves) are very aware of this. But changing practices to allow pets isn’t as easy as it might seem. For example, organizing a shelter’s space to accommodate pets can mean lost revenue, and tip the whole operation into insolvency4.

Part of the way forward would seem to lie in designing shelter spaces that welcome pets5.

To read more about a veterinarian’s approach to trauma-informed care, check out yahoo!news: Nearly 1/3 of the US homeless population lives in California. This veterinarian cares for the pets

Footnotes

  1. Here’s an article about trauma informed care at the homelesshub: Trauma Informed Care
  2. Try: A Homeless Man Pays Homage To His Pets, and Q: How Grateful Are The Homeless For Spare Change? A: Woof!
  3. Try: I Wouldn’t Leave A Dog Out On A Night Like This. Not Alone, Anyway
  4. Funding formulas for shelters are sometimes based on the number of beds and whether they are occupied.
  5. For more on the subject of trauma-informed architecture, try: Architects Design Buildings To Welcome People Shunned By Society