Pets have enormous therapeutic value and can bring warmth, love, joy, and meaning to their humans, perhaps especially so when the people concerned are sleeping rough. A new Christmas film, A Christmas Gift from Bob, highlights the importance of these relationships, and the role that charities such as The Salvation Army play in keeping people and their pets together.
The film is based on the international best-selling book, A Street Cat Named Bob, which tells the true story of James Bowen and Bob, the cat he met while they were both sleeping rough. It’s a feel-good film, which also aims to spread some good as the first 40,000 DVDs include details of The Salvation Army’s homelessness network. They also include details on how to donate to the charity’s frontline support services.
Recognising the mutually beneficial relationship
The Salvation Army knows that animals can be a determining factor in people’s success as they go through recovery. This is one reason the charity’s Lifehouse’s (supported housing for homeless people) don’t turn people away because they have a pet. In fact, support workers do whatever they can to ensure people and pets get the care they both need.
Some of the Lifehouse’s are pet-friendly, offering accommodation and wrap-around support for former rough sleepers who are animal lovers. Founders House Lifehouse in London is one such example, while the Pottergate Arc drop-in centre in Norwich provides a safe area, complete with food, toys, and leads, for pets to hang out while their humans get the necessary support.
Thanks to its working relationship with Dogs Trust’s Hope Project, people can also bring their pets to Pottergate Arc if they need veterinary services.
Commenting on the benefits of the pet-human relationship for rough sleepers, Nicola Darkins, Service Manager at Pottergate Arc, said, “We know the level of connection and companionship a pet can develop with someone living on the streets and how important that can be for someone’s recovery.
“Because of this, we wanted to offer support to those people who are homeless who have pets, by ensuring that the people themselves feel welcome and at home when they drop in to see us, but also that their pets are made just as welcome. This means their owners are more likely to accept the support they need to end their cycle of homelessness.”
You can help keep people and pets together this Christmas by donating money, food, or your time to The Salvation Army’s outreach services and ongoing programmes and projects.