The Christmas elves at Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, have been busy spreading Christmas cheer across the country by delivering gifts to the canine companions of people experiencing homelessness.
Every Christmas, through its Hope Project, Dogs Trust brings festive cheer to the dogs of people experiencing homelessness by delivering canine hampers of collars, leads, coats, treats and toys to dogs and their owners. Dogs Trust has been running the unique Hope Project for over 25 years and as well as Christmas gifts, provides free veterinary treatment to dogs whose owners are experiencing homelessness or in housing crisis.
“Having Blake has helped me immensely with my mental health and I can’t stress this enough,” said Paul. “I genuinely don’t think I would have been able to cope with life without him. He is the only constant in my life, he’s my best friend and he perks me up every day. I have someone to love and he loves me.
“I don’t get lonely and isolated because I have him.
“When I first became homeless, I was extremely worried about accessing vet care for Blake as I didn’t know anything about being homeless with a dog. Thankfully, he is a healthy dog so I haven’t had to take him to the vets too much but it’s a huge relief knowing that if he becomes unwell, I won’t need to worry about paying the bills. I would not be able to afford it without the Hope Project.
“It has also been lovely to receive parcels from the Hope Project at Christmas with food, a winter coat and other doggie treats.”
This year, the Hope Project delivered over 2000 Christmas parcels to dogs and their owners at over 200 homelessness services across the UK; a 24% increase in the number of parcels given out in 2021.
“Everyone knows that the bond between a dog and its owner is a strong one but for people experiencing homelessness, the bond is often unbreakable,” explained Harriet Page, Dogs Trust Pets and Housing Manager. “Christmas can be an especially difficult and lonely time for people in housing crisis, but the company of a canine friend can often help to ease some of this loneliness.”
As well as distributing Christmas hampers and offering free veterinary treatments the Hope Project supports homelessness services to accept clients with dogs and helps them put in place practical guidelines.
“Being able to offer the owners treats for the dogs has a huge impact on their moral – last year we gave out the Hope Project Christmas Parcels on Christmas morning with a gift for the owner,” said Danielle Curtis-Botting, who works at Gateway Homeless Project. “One of the recipients cried as they had not received a gift for themselves in over 10 years and never for the dog.
“We do get small treats for the dogs throughout the year and if someone receives a food parcel they can opt to have items for their dog but having toys and a new lead really brought back the sense of Christmas for this individual.”
Over the last 12 months, Dogs Trust outreach projects, including the Hope Project, have seen a 166% rise in phone enquiries, as Government stats show that homelessness is on the rise in the UK.
Homelessness organisations or veterinary surgeries interested in finding out more information about the scheme should call the Hope Project on 020 7833 7611 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.