Homelessness workers in Port Adelaide are welcoming dogs into their workplace to increase wellbeing as demand grows.
This week is National Homelessness Week 2023, with this year’s theme being ‘It’s time to end homelessness’. UnitingSA will be using the week to highlight the escalating issue.
The UnitingSA branch of the Adelaide North West Homelessness Alliance (ANWHA) is providing four times the number of sleeping bags than its usual monthly average, and are helping twice as many people sleeping rough compared to last winter.
UnitingSA CEO Jenny Hall said the team at UnitingSA’s homelessness service in Port Adelaide’s Dale Street precinct welcome a dog to the office every day of the work week.
“The initiative has been so popular, we’ve had to introduce a doggy roster,” Ms Hall said.
“It’s really helping to boost office morale as we deal with an increased number of clients in crisis. The team can take a break between clients and be comforted by a furry friend who wants nothing more than to make them happy.
“And the dogs really love the companionship too.”
Half of the current rough sleepers in western Adelaide also own dogs, so having a dog out in the field helps UnitingSA’s outreach workers build trusting relationships with people who can be reluctant to talk.
“People are often more confident to pat a dog than to speak with a worker, so our team tries to start from that point and create a conversation from there,” Ms Hall said.
While many of the office dogs cross paths with clients or sometimes sit in on meetings, only one dog, a six-year-old Staffordshire Terrier called Roxy, gets out and about with her owner – a member of the specialised outreach team.
“People have grown to love Roxy on her travels, and have come to look forward to her visits. She gets them talking on cold mornings. She loves pats, and is content to sit and be adored while the staff chat and go a little deeper into a person’s situation,” Ms Hall said.
“Roxy loves it, and her typical Staffy smile says it all.”
Ms Hall said the effects of SA’s housing crisis and soaring cost of living pressures were seeing more and more people reach out for support.
“In particular, we are seeing an increase in people who are unable to pay rising rents – twice as many as the same time last year. This puts them at risk of losing their homes, and once lost, there are few pathways back into affordable housing,” Ms Hall said.
UnitingSA is currently running its annual Winter Appeal and is urgently seeking financial and in-kind donations of food, warm bedding, tents and sleeping bags. On Thursday, UnitingSA’s Wesley Social Enterprises and homelessness teams are launching a new food van initiative to provide people doing it tough with a warm meal during the cold winter weeks. The initiative is funded through the State Government’s first-time, 2023 Homelessness Winter Strategy which offers one-off Warm Up Grants of up to $10,000.
To donate to the Winter Appeal, go to unitingsa.com.au/donate
UnitingSA is one of eight organisations who form ANWHA – a partnership between Aboriginal Sobriety Group, AnglicareSA, Centacare, SA Housing Authority, St John’s Youth Services, The Salvation Army Australia and Uniting Communities.
To find out more about ANWHA go to ANWHAhome.org.au