Pet-friendly homes boost health of Riverside’s customers in Kent

Riverside’s pet-friendly policy is having a hugely positive impact on the health and well-being of customers at their supported accommodation for people at risk of homelessness in Kent.

The Quays

Dogs, cats and fish are among the pets which can stay with their owners in their homes at The Quays in Sittingbourne, which supports people with complex needs, with pets helping to combat any potential feelings of isolation and loneliness.

One customer, Archie, came to The Quays via Riverside’s outreach rough sleeper initiative, in partnership with Swale Borough Council, with Riverside’s dog-friendly policy a huge factor in his decision to engage with the service.

Archie, 46, had been on the streets for several months with his Staffordshire terrier, Chyna, until he was referred to The Quays in November 2019, with other housing options not being able to accommodate pets.

Whilst on the streets, Archie was tackling his drug addiction; having Chyna, aged 10, with him at The Quays has supported his physical and mental health during lockdown, helping him to remain clean for more than a year.

Archie said: “Riverside has changed my life totally; I nearly lost my dog until I got to The Quays, but Riverside  saved her; Chyna does me the world of good.

“The Quays only started having dogs a month before I applied, which was really good timing. She makes me go out for fresh air to walk her; there’s no two ways about it, I wouldn’t go out otherwise. Chyna’s really good company and loving.”

Steven Lane, Journey Coach – Riverside, added: “Chyna means the world to Archie and has made a massive difference to him. The Quays has saved her life, helping with her vets bills when she arrived; so many places wouldn’t take her and Archie thought he’d have to give her up.

“The bond customers have with their animals is staggering; while they are on the streets, they look after their pets more than themselves. Their pets are always there for them and from their perspective the animals dote and love them to bits.”

Archie has turned his life around at The Quays, progressing from rough sleeping to semi-independent living.

Archie added that in the next few months he will start bidding for independent living through Kent Homechoice. “It’s like winning the lottery,” he said. “Looking to the future, I’d like to find work that helps people.”

Riverside does its best to accommodate customer’s pets; there are four dogs at The Quays and one cat – customers have fish tanks to help them keep calm.

Steven Lane added: “It’s been an incredible up and down journey for Archie and Chyna. To see him now physically compared to when he first came here has been a dramatic change; he’s changed so many habits.

“Archie is really self-motivated to change and having Chyna has helped him to tackle issues of isolation and loneliness. Taking Chyna out for walks helps him to feel better and gives him someone else to talk to; I’m so proud that Archie is now on the pathway to independent living.”

The Quays is run by charitable housing association Riverside, and provides supported accommodation for people aged 18 plus who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.