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Dogs Trust & St Mungo's bring festive cheer to dog owners in London who are homeless

Dogs Trust is once more bringing festive cheer to dogs and their owners who are experiencing homelessness or living in housing crisis in London.  

This year the charity’s Hope Project will be delivering over 1,500 canine hampers to those in need across the UK. Almost 200 dogs across Greater London will be receiving the hampers filled with treats, toys, collars, leads and warm winter dog coats. 

For over 25 years the UK’s largest dog welfare charity has been running its unique Hope Project - helping pet owners in housing crises with free vet care, supporting hostels in welcoming dogs and delivering festive hampers containing essential canine items. Between 5 and 25%* of those who are homeless are dog owners and this year, there has been a 77%** increase in the number of new rough sleepers in London. Clearly, Dogs Trust’s vital service has never been more important, all year round and especially at Christmas.  

St Mungo’s are one of the few accommodation providers that will welcome dogs at many of their services across London and the South. Dogs Trust and St Mungo’s have been working together for over two decades, ensuring that owning a dog is not a barrier to accessing accommodation. Dogs Trust have been supporting St Mungo’s through their Welcoming Dogs scheme, as well as by providing free vet care for any of their service users and delivering Christmas hampers to their four-legged residents.  

Two people and their dogs who will be receiving a Yuletide hamper this year are Chris and his dog, JC, and Justin and his dog, Gunner. They both live at a dog friendly St Mungo’s Hostel in Central London.   

Justin has been a resident at St Mungo’s for four years with his 11-year-old Staffy Cross, Gunner, who he has owned since he was a puppy. Justin said:   

"When I was made homeless, I spent a year and a half on the streets as I couldn't find any hostels that would accept Gunner. There was no way I was going to separate from him - I do not know what I’d do without him, he helped me get through it. 

  "Gunner loves his toys and treats from the Dogs Trust hamper, he’s still playing with them now! One day I hope to get my own set of keys to a flat for us to live in together, it will happen one day and all the pain and rubbish from my past will go away." 

Chris and his nine-year-old Staffy Cross, JC, have been living at a St Mungo's hostel for four months. Prior to this, mid pandemic, Chris was living at another hostel that did not accept dogs. He said it is the longest him and JC have ever been apart:  

"It was really difficult, without him, I struggled to go out and interact with people. When we were reunited at the dog friendly St Mungo's hostel, he was so happy to see me. 

"JC has been playing with the toys from his Dogs Trust hamper all day - I’m looking at him now and he’s lying in bed with one of the toys between his paws, he’s so happy." 

This year the Hope Project has adapted its services in light of the pandemic. As part of the national effort to accommodate rough sleepers in order to enable them to self-isolate, the team are working with hotels and emergency accommodation providers to support them in accepting and managing dogs so that people and their pets can stay together. Plus, it has sent out more than 1,200 tins of emergency dog food to support people and their pets during this pandemic.  

Harriet Page, Pets and Housing Manager at Dogs Trust, said: 

“For anyone experiencing any sort of housing crisis, their dog will often be their only companion and source of love and support. Sadly, numbers of people rough sleeping or experiencing other types of homelessness has continued to rise and has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  

“As temperatures drop, and with Christmas often being a very difficult and lonely time for many, we’re pleased to be able to distribute these hampers and be there for homeless people and their dogs not just at Christmas, but all year round. 

“The strong bond that Justin and Chris have with their dogs is clear to see, but unfortunately it is often so much more difficult to find housing simply because they have a canine friend. We’re so grateful for services like St Mungo’s who welcome dogs into many of their hostels in the South – ensuring that no dog owner has to choose between staying with their dog or accessing accommodation.” 

David Fisher, Executive Director of Services at St Mungo’s, said:  

“We are very grateful for the support that Dogs Trust has provided to us and our clients over the many years, through their Hope Project. 

“For many, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but for our clients, this is not always the case. It can be extremely lonely as they watch people reunite in their homes with friends and family, when they may not have seen their own for years. 

“St Mungo’s recognises the truly powerful and emotional support that dogs can bring to someone who is sleeping rough, and that is why we reduce barriers for people moving away from the streets by having a number of services which welcome pets. And it so nice to see our clients, Chris and his dog JC and Justin and his dog, Gunner their hampers, reinforcing just why this is so important now, more than ever.” 

To find out more about the Hope Project’s ‘Welcoming Dogs’ service go to Dogs Trust Hope Project and to donate, please go to Dogs Trust Hope Appeal.