Jody Bailey said her four-year-old Groodle, Oscar, has offered much-needed support during some difficult times in her life.
“He helps me get up every single day and to live life to the fullest,” she said of her canine companion.
“He’s everything to me… I wouldn’t be as well as I am if it wasn’t for him.”
Ms Bailey is currently in transitional housing in East Corrimal, following a recent period of being homeless for a “couple of months”.
The 38-year-old said she became homeless due to a domestic violence situation, and also lived in a women’s refuge.
Pets in the Park (PITP) is a registered charity that provides free veterinary care for companion animals owned by people that are homeless, or at risk of homelessness.
Sylvania Veterinary Hospital has partnered with PITP and Wollongong Emergency Family Housing/Wollongong Homeless Hub to supply vaccinations, flea treatment, routine worming, de-sexing and micro-chipping.
They are providing this service for pets owned by clients of the Hub or Supported Accommodation & Homelessness Services Shoalhaven Illawarra (SAHSSI).
The program also supplies donated pet food or toys where possible.
Dr Michelle Sutherland from Sylvania Veterinary Hospital and veterinarian nurses volunteer their time to help deliver the program.
Ms Bailey, who is on a disability pension, visited the Hub on Thursday as part of the recently launched program.
“My parents had to look after him for a while when I became homeless,” she said of Oscar.
“I’m lucky because he’s got a good coat so he doesn’t shed… But in regards to the vet and being able to get him treated, it is an expense.
“To have this service here is great; I was the first one here because I wanted to get him checked.
“I’ve had him checked over, they’ve updated his vaccinations and given him a worming tablet.”
Dr Sutherland said many people who are experiencing homelessness own pets that play a significant role in their lives.
“These much-loved pets offer unconditional love, companionship, emotional support and security; basic human needs that are often not met elsewhere,” she said.
“Although pet ownership greatly enriches the lives of those who are homeless, it also comes at a significant financial cost.”
Participants need to have a written referral and be engaged with the Homeless Hub or SAHSSI.
Mandy Booker, manager of Wollongong Emergency Family Housing and Wollongong Homeless Hub said they were pleased to offer their clients the opportunity to care for their pets even though they themselves are struggling.
“The added burden of vet bills is a cost they cannot afford and this service allows the pets to get the much-needed health care that they would otherwise miss out on receiving,” she said.
“Clients’ cats and dogs are sometimes the only companions they can rely on.”
To contact the Homeless Hub, phone 4228 0955.