When families summon the courage to leave violent homes, they face the heartbreaking decision of whether to leave their pet behind. A homeless person looks for a warm, safe bed to sleep in at a shelter—but when their pets are not allowed, the person will usually choose to stay on the streets than risk losing their pet. And when a person with mental challenges or physical issues needs hospitalization, what will happen to their pet when they may be away for days or even weeks?
“Some of the people we help just don’t have the resources to care for their pets,” says Jacqueline Wilson, CEO of Training and Treatment Innovations (TTI), serving seven counties throughout Michigan. TTI was founded in 1987 as a behavioral health organization, supporting individuals with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. They’ve since expanded to include help for the homeless and families fleeing domestic violence.
Many times, they were confronted with a serious question: What about the person or family’s pet? “At TTI, we are very pro-pet,” says Jacqueline. “That’s part of our passion—we believe in the benefit of having pets for your mental health and your physical wellbeing.”
Knowing that many of the people they serve had pets, they came up with the Pet Companion Crisis Care Program. “With this program, we can board an animal until we can help a homeless individual get a residence, and then the pet and person are reunited,” says Kevin Bogg, TTI’s Housing Program Manager. They can also board pets of people who need hospitalization for physical or psychiatric reasons and domestic violence survivors. For all of the people they work with, says Jacqueline, “Knowing their pets are safe, and having them nearby or with them, is critical.”
TTI was able to launch the Pet Companion Crisis Care Program when they received a grant from PetSmart Charities. “I’m a pet owner times two dozen, so I’m always at PetSmart buying something,” says Jaqueline. “When I found out about the grant, I was really excited!” Kevin says, “These funds have allowed us to deliver pet food, leashes and collars, flea medicines, and other supplies to people who don’t have access to what their pets need during COVID-19. Plus, we’ve been able to continue boarding animals when individuals need it.”
Many of the people TTI works with had part-time jobs that were lost during the pandemic. “They were in dire straits,” says Kevin. “Thanks to the grant from PetSmart Charities, we were able to deliver pet food and supplies to them. They said it saved their animals’ lives.”
Thanks to TTI’s partnership with PetSmart Charities and their Pet Companion Crisis Care Program, the homeless no longer have to choose between shelter and abandoning their beloved dog or cat. Families escaping abuse won’t have to leave a beloved pet behind. And when someone is in need of a hospital stay, they can breathe easier, knowing their pet is being cared for. “A person can take care of their health needs when we can tell them that when they come out, their pet is going to be there,” says Jacqueline. “That is one of the biggest supports we have for someone trying to recover from illness, abuse, or homelessness: knowing that their pet is okay.”
For more on TTI and their Pet Companion Crisis Care program, visit their website: https://ttiinc.org