UW News

October 7, 2019

Pop-up galleries and data: Visualizing the lives of homeless people and their animals

UW News

Person and a dog with ball on Seattle street

Adam and Chief taking a rest after playing ball along the Elliot Bay trail before finding a place to sleep for the night. 
Adam & Chief wrote: “I don’t think I’ve ever had a dog that I could just give away because I became homeless. However, you have to make that a priority. Every single second of the day he has to be top of the list. You have to worry about his food, his health, his safety and where everything is coming from next. And then you know it’s definitely not easy. I’ll be glad to be off the streets when I do get off of them with him.”Adam&Chief/UW Center for One Health

Sparked by a grant from the UW Population Health Initiative, the UW’s Center for One Health Research has created a series of pop-up galleries featuring autobiographical photographs made by people experiencing homelessness with their animal companions.

The first gallery was Oct. 4 in UW’s Red Square. Other pop-up gallery events are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 7, at Occidental Square in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district; Oct. 10 in Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park; and Oct. 13 in the Ballard Commons Park.

The events also feature data visualizations and community maps based on research conducted during the One Health project. In addition to the center, which is part of the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, collaborators include UW School of Law, School of Social Work and School of Nursing.

The center’s photo galleries will provide windows into the lives of people experiencing homelessness as they navigate the complexities of getting through their days and nights with a service animal, emotional support animal or pet.

“It made sense to start a foundation in storytelling, because this is an issue that is so heavily polarized, especially in Seattle, that data alone wouldn’t necessarily be the first way you were going to start the conversation,” said Gemina Garland-Lewis, a photographer and One Health research coordinator.

Cat on dash of RV

Chanel sunbathes in her favorite spot in the RV. Dee Powers wrote: “Life out here has some differences, but we’re all the same. We’ve all got our own struggles and our own differences and our own difficulties, and it’s the same whether you live indoors or outdoors. We’re all people, you know? And people have pets. And pets are a huge comfort to these people’s lives.”Dee Powers/UW Center for One Health Research

So Garland-Lewis, whose own photos and stories of people experiencing homelessness with their animals can be found at Everything to Me, put disposable cameras and notebooks into the hands of nearly 20 people to document their life experiences. The participants had the cameras for an average of 32 days and created a total of 800 images.

She hopes that when pet-loving Seattleites see the human-animal bond evident in these photos and stories, they will recognize “that they have something in common with someone they thought they had nothing in common with. That’s the door to the data, to look at the data, to look at the issue and think about solutions.”

Earlier this year, One Health researchers tested pilot clinics for including animals in health care services for the homeless. And just this past summer, they joined with veterinarians from Washington State University and Neighborcare Health to establish the One Health Clinic. At the clinic, a person could see a doctor and have their animal seen by a veterinarian.

Vickie Ramirez, senior research and program coordinator at the center, also collected data through 44 qualitative and quantitative interviews to develop an understanding of the needs and gaps in services for people experiencing homelessness with their animals. Among her findings:

Dog on person's lap in a hammock

After recently entering housing, a hammock that once served as a sleep space on unsheltered nights is now a place for Grace Stroklund and her pet to relax near Green Lake. Grace Stroklund wrote: “It’s been substantially comforting to have that bond, that connection with him, and it’s helped us strive for a better life for not just him but ourselves. The amount of care and effort it takes to have a being like that in your life makes you have to care about yourself and puts a lot of insight into who you are, too. It’s sparked so much more success and progress in our lives.”Grace Stroklund/UW Center for One Health Research

  • 76 percent of people experiencing homelessness reported barriers to resources due to having an animal
  • 64 percent reported being harassed for having an animal
  • 55 percent indicated their pets were designated service animals or emotional support animals

Collaborators from the UW School of Law also explored the matrix of city, state and federal laws around animals designated as service or emotional support animals. The Law School group created a Know Your Rights document to help a homeless person navigate the legal complexities and be able to assert their rights when it comes to, for example, getting on a city bus with an animal.

Ramirez hopes the One Health Clinic approach to incorporating animals into health care for the homeless will catch on.

“We are getting calls from all over the country from service providers who want to learn how they can replicate our model,” she said. “We want to be able to build a protocol for how to set this up and how it works for other communities to use.”

Other organizations that supported the research include New Horizons, PSKS, Teen Feed, Youth Care, Roots, Street Youth Ministries, the Paws Project and Seattle Dogs Homeless Program.

The gallery had additional financial support from the schools of Social Work and Law.

For more information, contact Ramirez at ramirezv@uw.edu.

Facebook: Center for One Health Research @COHR.UW; One Health Clinic @OneHealthClinic