In 20 years the Hope project has transformed the lives thousands of homeless dog owners growing from just one clinic to over 100 vital services throughout the UK. This week Dogs Trust the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, marks the 20th anniversary of its Hope Project - a unique service which offers support to dogs owners who are homeless or in housing crisis. With the issue of homelessness taking centre stage at party conferences this month, and the Labour Party citing solving the housing crisis as their "top priority", the service which operates in Birmingham is as relevant and as valuable to the people it serves as ever.
When the Project launched in 1995 there was not a single dog friendly hostel in the UK and just one solitary veterinary clinic run by the Hope Project to support dogs and their owners. Now, in just twenty years, the Hope project offers an invaluable service in 107 towns and cities across the UK, working with local vets and homelessness organisations, and last year funded over 1700 veterinary treatments to help dogs remain with their devoted owners. Thanks to work of the project, there are now 157 dog friendly hostels nationwide.
Fifteen years ago the project also developed a Christmas parcel service for those who are homeless over the festive season delivering essential supplies to 100 dogs in its first year. This Christmas the project will provide parcels to over 1200 dogs nationwide.
A survey commissioned by Dogs Trust for the anniversary reveals that 64% of those surveyed in the West Midlands believed dog owners should not be forced to give up their dog to get into hostel accommodation, with a further 78% recognising that homeless people keep their dogs primarily for companionship.
Hope client Andreana explains the importance of being able to stay with her dog, Khan, when she was homeless, “I really believe I would be dead now if it wasn’t for my dog. He really held me up. I couldn’t have gone on without him. He saved my life.”
Clare Kivlehan, Hope Project Manager says “This service is completely unique in that it is the only UK wide project set up specifically to help homeless people and their dogs. With 82% of homeless people saying that their dog is their best friend, we are proud to have provided essential and life-saving veterinary care to so many dogs over the past 20 years. However, with two thirds of homeless dog owners being asked to give up their dogs in order to find accommodation we know there is still much to be done and we hope our services continue to help as many homeless people and their dogs as possible over the next 20 years.”
For the first time Dogs Trust also questioned a group of homeless dog owners to a get snapshot understanding of the world they face: