What is the problem that needs to be addressed? Please describe how it is related to mental health.
The homeless population in Orange County struggles with linkage to mental health programs. There are significant barriers to someone dealing with mental health issues and homelessness at the same time, causing them to not engage in treatment. Without treatment, a homeless individual has less opportunity to be housed and reduce the impairments that sustain their homelessness. One of those major barriers is pets. A homeless individual’s animal is a significant companion and support element in their lives. Many times, homeless individuals refuse shelter and treatment appointments because they cannot bring their animal. As minor as this issue sounds, it is in reality a significant problem that impacts someone accessing mental health services.
Why is this a concern for Orange County? What can Orange County and other counties learn from this project?
The homeless issue is at a crisis point in Orange County. Individuals refuse shelter daily, and the lack of animal care options is one of the largest barriers that the homeless population faces. Being innovative about animal care options can teach counties how to think outside the box when coming up with solutions to accessing the mental health system of care for homeless individuals.
What is currently being done to resolve this problem in our county and throughout the United States? If applicable: Is it working; why or why not?
There are very limited options for homeless individuals with pets. Some shelters have limited numbers of pet beds, but those go quickly. And the participants need to care for their animals while at the shelter. If there was a program available to support the homeless participant seeking linkage to services while giving them a boarding option, it would open up treatment and shelter that couldn’t be used previously.
What is new or different about this project idea? Please describe how this differs from what is already being done (Question 6). Please list any research that was done on this topic.
There have been limited options for looking at the animal care barriers to someone seeking treatment.
What is the project idea? Please describe how this project will operate.
The program being proposed is service focused on reducing the animal boarding and care barrier to those homeless individuals seeking mental health treatment and shelter/housing. A provider would create a network of veternarians, boarding programs, animal day care, and animal foster volunteers who would be available to outreach programs to immediately foster for days, overnights and up to 30 days for individuals ready to seek treatment and/or shelter. The program staff would work in collaboration with OC Animal Care to create this network of animal care options for the homeless population. This would increase an individual’s opportunity to seek shelter, and be immediately connected to mental health services. Many homeless will not part with their animals, but the option of having somewhere for them to go for the day while they tend to mental health or housing intake appointments would greatly increase mental health access for this highly vulnerable population. The program would seek volunteers, low cost boarding, and be able to pay or subcontract with boarding options. Finally, the program would also engage previously homeless individuals who have been housed in the last year or two, and train them to be animal foster sites.
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