By James Galwey

There are not enough beds in Montreal for homeless people with animals. Even on a frigid night in February, people with dogs would prefer -15c temperatures than sleep in a centre without their pet. “Things are a bit better now that the Royal Vic is allowing pets but that’s only in winter,” says Megan, 28, waiting downstairs Chez Pops on Ontario to see the free vet with her dog, Duff. “There’s also the Bunker, but its only until you’re 21, and there’s a restriction on the number of nights in a row you can stay.”

 

On the streets at the age of fifteen, Megan is now 28 and getting her life in order. She recently finished her Bac and is aiming to get into a social services program at McGill “…to give something back to society.” The dog was a great help in getting her to where she is today. “When you’re taking care of another creature on the street you have to have a plan. You live day to day but a pet forces you to look further, to think ahead, to improve your situation.”

 

Indeed, studies have shown that having a dog or pet when you are on the street is therapeutic. University of Guelph researchers studied the mental health of 189 street-living adolescents in four Canadian cities and found that youths with pets were much less likely to suffer from depression, were arrested less often, used fewer drugs and drank less alcohol. They did not want to do anything that could jeopardise their companionship.

 

Yet, despite studies showing the benefits of homeless people having pets, the availability of pet-friendly accommodation for the night is scarce to non-existent. Considering the benefits, it seems rather short-sighted. They city should appreciate the mutual benefits and special bond that homeless people have with their pets and provide more resources, and not just in winter.

Young woman and her dog.jpg

"Despite studies showing the benefits of homeless people having pets, the availability of pet-friendly accommodation for the night is scarce to non-existent."

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Credit: James Galwey