Pet Ownership Among Homeless Youth: Associations with Mental Health, Service Utilization and Housing Status

As many as 25 % of homeless persons have pets. To our knowledge, pet ownership has not been studied quantitatively with homeless youth. This study examined pet ownership among 398 homeless youth utilizing two Los Angeles drop-in centers. Twenty-three percent of homeless youth had a pet. The majority of pet owners reported that their pets kept them company and made them feel loved; nearly half reported that their pets made it more difficult to stay in a shelter. Pet owners reported fewer symptoms of depression and loneliness than their non-pet owning peers. Pet ownership was associated with decreased utilization of housing and job-finding services, and decreased likelihood of currently staying in a shelter. These findings elucidate many of the positive benefits of pet ownership for homeless youth, but importantly highlight that pet ownership may negatively impact housing options. Housing and other services must be sensitive to the needs of homeless youth with pets.

Publication Date: 
In press
Journal Name: 
Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Los Angeles, California, USA