St Vincent de Paul is currently trialling dogs in their crisis accommodation residence, Samaritan House, to offer companionship to residents.
“It just gets your mind off things and allows you just to have some time out and it is great companionship,” says Malcolm, a resident at Samaritan House.
“When you end up here, you’ve already been doing it fairly tough. So it’s nice to have some sort of release, and something to relax and to bring normality back into your life. Something like a pet or an animal around the place is a great thing in that regard.”
Four dogs, all belonging to employees, take it in turns to spend time at Samaritan House. One of those dogs is Case Manager Krystal Reid’s spoodle, Charli.
“Originally they were looking at getting a therapy dog, but that was quite expensive so we’ve just used Charli and a few of the other staff’s dogs at the moment which has been working really well,” Krystal says.
“Just because Charli’s not a trained recognised therapy dog, she still is very much a therapy dog. She always picks up on the guys, if they’re struggling with their mental health or they’re having a bad day.
Krystal says residents have told her the dogs bring a positive vibe to the house, as well as helping people settle in and feel comfortable.
“She just breaks down barriers with people that come in who are new intakes or people that have come from crisis situations [and have had to] come here and leave their pet somewhere, then they’ve got a little bit of comfort with Charli.”
Samaritan House is run by St Vincent de Paul and provides support and accommodation to men over the age of 18. It is the only permanent provider of crisis accommodation for single men in the ACT.
Chris Shortis, Director of Special Works at St Vincent de Paul Canberra/Goulburn, says the trial has “worked really well”.
“I just love when I come over here … You come in and the dogs are around, and everyone’s just milling around the dogs … straight away there’s a calmness because the dog’s there breaking the ice for everybody.
“You can just sit down and talk about the dog… that’s what I think is really nice when you come into the house.”