Fiona & her dog Penny find safe place to stay

Launch Housing East St Kilda client Fiona* gives insight into her experience with homelessness and how important pet-friendly crisis accommodation rooms are for people with pets. Launch Housing operates the only pet-friendly crisis accommodation rooms for people experiencing homelessness in Victoria.  Most crisis accommodation centers prohibit animals, so pet owners often won’t stay because their pets aren’t allowed.

By Fiona, Launch Housing East St Kilda client and proud owner of Penny**

“The biggest thing I’ve been reflecting on is that sense of never belonging. Early in life I questioned the elitism of the culture I grew up in. My family was upper middle class and lived in Toorak. I was born questioning but felt I was never allowed to speak up.

My mum gave up her law career for her family as it was that day and age. My father always told me I was not lovable.

(Image: Penny from the Launch Housing East St Kilda crisis accommodation site)

I always had a good intellect but struggled with a depth of self-awareness. That’s worked against me.  I loved music from an early age; it was serendipity that I ended up where I did. I operated a talent management business for 19 years in the entertainment industry; I just closed it last year.

I have never felt nurtured or able to ask for help. I never felt wanted. But the people [staff] here [at Launch Housing East St Kilda] are gentle.

It’s that gentleness that I have found for the first time. It’s always been my life’s search…home. What does family mean? What does home mean?

I haven’t had a home for a year; I’ve been staying in 20 to 30 places. I’ve been sleeping rough, living out of my car and once stayed at the Salvos Café in Bourke Street. So, where do animals fit in the scheme of things?

[My dog] Penny has been amazing, but also the biggest hindrance to getting a roof over my head. When I first came here Penny was staying in a car I rented for a while. I couldn’t give her to my parents.

Originally, I had tried to find a pet sitter and all my spare money was going to support her. Then I got the pet-friendly room on-site. Someone else was staying in it before that, they didn’t have a pet, but when I move in staff negotiated to help me get into that room.

I have never been shown that much kindness and humanity from people before. Between the staff on- site and the team from Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

They moved things so quickly once they got me the room and people worked over time to make sure I could move in with Penny as soon as possible.

She unifies people.  Pets have got that unconditional love.  Penny has been the one force to elevate me; she gives me a reason to get up daily. A reason to hope for a better tomorrow.”

*Name has been changed by request.

**Name as also been changed for privacy reason.