A Greater Cincinnati agency helps people experiencing homelessness keep their pets
A Walnut Hills shelter is gaining nationwide recognition for how it tries to keep people experiencing homelessness with their pets. Found House Interfaith Housing Network, formerly, the Interfaith Hospitality Network, shelters not only the pets of its clients but pets of people at other Greater Cincinnati shelters.
Found House renovated its kennels during COVID and has two separate spaces downstairs to house 30 dogs and cats, which are 95% of its pets. Pet Support Supervisor Garrett Parsons says occasionally there are other animals including turtles, bearded dragons and birds.
Dozens of volunteers work around the clock to take care of the pets. Twenty of them shelter dogs and cats at their homes.
Garrett says the Found House Pet Program is extremely important for people experiencing homelessness.
“They would have remained unsheltered or couch surfing, not accessing shelter had they not been able to come into our program. These are really amazing pet owners that need a little bit of extra support.”
Angela Faulkner and her five kids were able to bring their two dogs with them, one-year-old Chuck, a black lab and five-year-old Precious, a shih tzu.
“I was definitely concerned,” says Faulkner. “I thought I was going to have to give the dogs away but then I spoke with Garrett and he was like, ‘I can take them in.’ ”
She thanks Found House for opening doors and giving pets unconditional love.
Parsons says having a pet is a huge barrier to finding housing. His agency works to place its clients in pet friendly permanent housing.
“I’m constantly amazed how strong that connection that they have with their animal is. I mean, these are folks that would do anything for their animal.”
The Pet Program at Found House serves anyone in shelter, those trying to access shelter, people in rehab programs or the hospital. Eighty percent of pets are able to return to their owner.
There are still barriers to overcome
After people find permanent housing, Found House is still able to help with vet costs, pet food, pet supplies and dog behavior training if needed. Charitable organizations help pay for their needs.
More agencies are getting on board, realizing the importance of keeping pets and people experiencing homelessness together. Parsons is working with not only local organizations, but national and international ones.