Walking through the breezeways at UMOM New Day Centers’ main emergency shelter campus or Halle Women’s Center, you might run across a dog or two or three. Or a cat. Or a bearded dragon.
While UMOM is a facility that is designed for families and individuals facing homelessness, some of our clients have emotional support or therapy animals they need to help them manage anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or a range of other health issues. These pets are not only essential members of our clients’ families; they serve an important purpose of keeping their humans calm and healthy.
At any given time, there are about a dozen support animals at UMOM’s emergency family shelter and Halle Women’s Center combined.
UMOM clients are going through a traumatic experience, losing their homes, and for some, also escaping a life of abuse or domestic violence. Because it is relatively common for families to have an emotional support animal, UMOM allows them as well as service and assistive pets. Their owners must provide a doctor’s note within two weeks of arriving at UMOM, indicating their pet is a necessary part of their condition’s treatment. The pet parents provide proof of vaccination, ensure their animals are well-behaved and abide by a “good neighbor” policy, which means cleaning up after them during walks. Cats and dogs (and bearded dragons) must be kenneled when clients are not in their rooms at the New Day Center; pets must be supervised at all times by the owner or roommate with “consent to care” permission at Halle Women’s Center.
UMOM clients with pets who find a job and work during the day can board their animal companions for a low weekly cost, thanks to UMOM partners who offer pet day care to our clients
for a reduced fee.
Lasher arrived at UMOM’s family campus this spring. She has struggled with PTSD for years and her family’s three-year-old pit bull and service dog, Rocko, provides her with comfort when she needs it most.
“I had a ‘freak-out’ a few days ago, a major one. I normally just sit with the dog and I don’t know what he does, but he calms me. He kind of senses when I’m upset, too.”
Lasher says Rocko does the same for her teenage son, who will often get restless and want to run around at unexpected times. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which makes him prone to bursts of impulsive activity. Rocko will approach him, and in the way only a dog can communicate with a human, let Lasher’s son know he should take a deep breath and calm down. For their family, Rocko is the living, breathing salve that provides them with relief at the right time.