Prior to the onset of the pandemic, My Dog is My Home, a "national non-profit dedicated to expanding shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness and their companion animals," collaborated on two “One Health” street clinics in NYC, partnering with Positive Tails, The Street Dog Coalition, and others to provide free veterinary care, basic medical care, as well as pet and human supplies to the New York community.

Since large in-person events are still off the table this year, My Dog is My Home will be virtually hosting a Co-Sheltering Conference on March 2-4 (tickets). A first of its kind event, the conference builds upon prior projects to further shed light on equity and access within social services for people and animals experiencing homelessness. Experts in the fields of emergency housing, social services, and animal welfare will be in attendance to discuss preserving the human-animal bond, advocating for policy change, and building community partnerships. James Bowen, author of “A Street Cat Named Bob” is featured as a keynote speaker, and there will be a Q&A with Elizabeth Lo, director of Magnolia Pictures film "Stray."

In addition to stories from heavy hitters, those from regular people who have experienced, or are currently experiencing homelessness, will be told via video storytelling segments spread out over the three days on the organization’s YouTube channel starting on March 2nd.

"You’re living a life where you’re falling through the cracks...and there are a lot of cracks in the system," said Scott Edens, speaking about his experiences working in homeless outreach in Los Angeles during a recent Zoom interview. Edens’ understanding of homelessness goes well beyond his daily peer counseling endeavors –- he too experienced homelessness, and knows the failures of, and distrust created by, the "system."

While living on the streets, Scott’s much-loved companion was a black lab named Scout. It was because of Scout’s unconditional love that Scott had the motivation to keep going, helping him to ultimately be able to climb out of the pit into which he’d fallen.

Success stories like Scott’s do not have to be rare. There are organizations offering resources and a way forward to those who’ve found themselves on the streets, and even those that will also support the pets those humans hold dear. Too often, the shelter systems in large cities such as NYC will not admit an individual if they are with an animal. As a result, some people choose to stay on the streets, as dangerous as they are, to avoid being separated from their loved one.

Head to My Dog is My Home for more info on the organization and conference, and check out pictures and video of "One Health" events from June and November of 2019, as well as a teaser of an interview with Jacob for the virtual conference, below.

photos and words by Stephanie Augello