August 16, 2023
The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) and Dogs Trust have partnered to create a collection of non-stigmatising images of dog owners who are also experiencing homelessness to help challenge negative stereotypes.
The images, which depict people experiencing homelessness with their dogs, in natural and non-stereotypical ways, are available to download and free to use. Building on evidence related to reinforcing negative images of homelessness, this collection holds images that offer an alternative to the archetypical depiction of a single older men with a dog on a cold wet pavement.They capture a wider breadth of experiences of homelessness in the UK, including individuals living in hostels, supported accommodation and temporary accommodation.
Dog ownership amongst people experiencing homelessness has an array of health and social benefits, including reducing loneliness, isolation and depression. However, pet ownership is also believed to perpetuate homelessness, by restricting access to support services. In fact, in a recent study by Dogs Trust, 70% of homelessness services said that their clients had experienced barriers for accessing homelessness services because they have a dog.
Dogs Trust provides support to dog owners experiencing homelessness through its Hope Project. As well as helping accommodation providers to become more dog friendly, the Hope Project provides free veterinary treatment to dogs whose owners are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the provision of an online directory of dog-friendly homelessness services in the UK, and a Christmas parcel service, where the charity sends out dog goodies to homelessness services across the country that support dog owners.
Keiran, who was photographed with their dog Storm, spoke about the importance of having a pet:
“There have been some tough times and she kept me going. She doesn’t really notice what she means to me, she doesn’t realise what she does. Just her company, going for walks. Having someone to talk to.
When I am having a dull time or feeling lonely, Storm can sense it. She jumps straight up and gives me a cuddle. She can sense if I am feeling a bit down or not quite with it and she keeps me happy. And she gives me a routine.“
Dr Jenny Stavisky, Clinical research Manager at VetPartners, who has carried out research into the topic of dog ownership and addiction and homelessness said:
“Companion animals have been widely recognised for their ability to alleviate feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression, while also increasing resilience. Acting as a buffer against stressful life events, the presence of pets has been shown to have a significant positive impact, with studies showing that individuals affected by homelessness who have pets exhibit lower levels of depression and loneliness compared to those without.
This highlights the crucial role that companion animals can play in providing emotional support and fostering a sense of connection for those facing the challenges of homelessness.”
Dr Ligia Teixeira, Chief Executive of the Centre for Homelessness Impact said:
"Our collection of images underscores the profound significance of dog ownership in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. These images hold the power to transform public perceptions by showcasing the authentic faces and stories of homelessness, diverging from outdated stereotypes.
By portraying the reality of homelessness with respect and realism, we aim to dismantle misconceptions and foster a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by individuals. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to those who bravely participated in this initiative, united in our mission to combat stigma and promote empathy through compelling evidence."
Radi Ivanov from the Hope Project at Dog’s Trust said:
‘’We’re thrilled to have collaborated with the Centre for Homelessness Impact to add photographs of some of the people we support on the Hope Project and their dogs to this library of images.
“Dogs can be a lifeline for people experiencing homelessness and provide much needed comfort and stability, often being crucial for their mental, physical health and recovery. We know dog owners experiencing homelessness would often make sure their pets’ needs are met before their own, and we hope these evidence-led images will help tackle some of the misconceptions about homelessness and dog ownership.”
The image library, which was launched by the Centre for Homelessness Impact in January contains hundreds of images which aim to show homelessness realistically, and respectfully. This was achieved by working with people with direct experience of homelessness to define the brief for each shoot, creating a set of original images of people experiencing homelessness.
The majority of the images in this library were taken by Jeff Hubbard – a photographer with personal experiences of homelessness. Jeff spent time sleeping on the streets, and began learning photography techniques through the homelessness charity Crisis. He now works as a freelance photographer, and continues to run photography workshops at Crisis.