Tempe gives HOPE to furry friends

Homeless dogs in Tempe will receive some much-needed TLC on Friday with free pet food, supplies and limited veterinary services as the city helps animals in need.

The City of Tempe’s HOPE homeless outreach team is seeing an increase in the numbers of people who are homeless with pets. But assisting them with housing can be a challenge. The owners are often reluctant to go into a temporary shelter because they don’t want to be separated from a beloved pet.

By offering a bag of food or a water dish, Tempe’s homeless outreach specialists can start a conversation about options, housing and services, said Nichole Stevens, Tempe’s homeless solutions supervisor.

At similar event held by Tempe in August, the HOPE team engaged with about 35 people and served 18 pets.

The HOPE team is hosting the Dec. 20 outreach event with the BELLA Project, a local volunteer group focused on homeless dogs, and the nonprofit Street Dog Coalition. Supplies and services will be available starting at 8 a.m. at Tempe First United Methodist Church, 215 E. University Dr. The event is open to people who are currently experiencing homelessness.

The Bella Project is offering dog food and treats, leashes and other supplies. The Street Dog Coalition will provide limited veterinary services.

Advocates don’t know how many pets are on the streets with their owners at any given time. But during the countywide Point-in-Time Homeless Count in January, volunteers counted 182 pets with people experiencing homelessness.

Says Homeless Outreach Specialist Kelly Denman, remaining with pets is important for people who are experiencing homelessness.

“Pets provide companionship and security,” he says. “That relationship may be the one constant in their lives.”

He continues, “We can build trust with pet owners at these kinds of community events, connect them with services and help them stay with their four-legged family members.”

To help support the organizations taking part in the event, contact BELLA Project through the group’s Facebook page or The Street Dog Coalition at www.thestreetdogcoalition.org.

For more information about the City of Tempe’s homeless-related efforts: www.tempe.gov/EndingHomelessness.

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