Washington, D.C. (October 12, 2022) — The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) announced today funding for a new research project that seeks to develop a multi-perspective strategy for reforming housing service systems to support unhoused young people with pets. This research will be conducted by the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work.
“We want to identify how to improve the policies of existing housing service systems to better support young people with pets who are unhoused,” said Erin Flynn, a Ph.D. student who will co-lead the project. “Through this research, we will synthesize the expertise of unhoused young people and service providers to develop a framework for housing systems to better protect the human-animal bond for this vulnerable population.”
Every year, 4.2 million young people in the United States experience some level of homelessness, and unhoused people face higher risks of health problems, substance abuse, and depression. Scientific research demonstrates the health and developmental benefits of pet ownership for young people, ranging from better mental health and quality of life to improved physical health. Pets may be especially likely to benefit vulnerable populations such as unhoused youth.
Many young people experiencing homelessness describe their pets as family members and experience distress when they perceive this relationship is not being respected by housing services. A lack of pet-friendly policies leaves unhoused young people with pets excluded from housing, health, and other related services. Young people have reported delaying seeking help or refusing services altogether if it meant they would be separated from their pets.
Erin Flynn will be joined by co-Principal Investigator Laura Coddington, also a Ph.D. student of the Graduate School of Social Work, and Co-Investigators Dr. Kimberly Bender and Dr. Jennifer Wilson. Researchers will conduct in-depth interviews with unhoused young people and housing service providers in the Denver, CO area. Interviews will be focused on identifying how current policies, practices and beliefs influence young people’s relationships with pets, and will identify barriers and solutions to help support unhoused youth with pets.
“Currently, housing service programs do not recognize the critical role that the human-animal bond plays in the lives of unhoused young people with pets,” explained Laura Coddington. “Our research will help address this critical gap in current housing initiatives available to young people.”
HABRI is a not-for-profit organization that maintains the world’s largest online library of human-animal bond research and information; funds innovative research projects to scientifically document the health benefits of companion animals; and informs the public about human-animal bond research and the beneficial role of companion animals in society. For more information, please visit www.habri.org.
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