Spotlight: Gloucester

We started preparations to build the new StreetVet Gloucester location at the end of 2018, gathered a team of vets and nurses in February 2019 and had already conducted our first outreach by 5th March 2019. StreetVet Gloucester currently has 1 cat and 26 dogs registered and is the 8th largest branch in terms of patient numbers.

How do you structure your team and who does what?

Tim Sandys is our team lead; he coordinates outreaches, volunteer vet inductions, medicine and food supplies, and more.  Laura Shaw and Ann Zollman run the communications team together with Jo Hobbs and Sarah Langley.

Their task is to raise our profile with the police, the council, hostels and other homeless support charities in Gloucester. Lucy Goodling manages the charity and fundraising component of the branch on a local scale and also organises the nurse volunteer induction process.  Hannah Jones is the social media lead, selecting and forwarding content for the StreetVet social media platforms.

Harley, our first patient in Gloucester

How do you structure your outreaches and where are they?

Our outreach structure has had to change completely since the arrival of COVID-19.  Previously, we had a weekly drop-in clinic at a Gloucester homeless project and a fortnightly Saturday night outreach around the city centre, together with a soup run team from Gloucester City Mission.  Since July 2019, we are now entirely outside and our weekly outreach is divided into two sections: the first hour is spent in the city centre park and the second is spent behind a bus stop opposite the stretch which comprises the majority of Gloucester’s hostels.  We alternate weekly between Fridays and Saturdays in order to enable more availability for volunteers.  This new structure has been working well and our clients have quickly adapted to our open-air, COVID-safe method.  Thankfully, there is a band stand at the park and a bus shelter opposite the hostels, as we have had rather a lot of rain during this year’s outreaches!

Who do you partner with and what support do you get from the local community?

Since the launch of the Gloucester branch, we have worked closely with Gloucester City Mission, who support the city’s homeless community in many different practical ways.  They provided us with a room to use for our drop-in clinics, as well as advice on deciding who was eligible to register.  We have also collaborated with P3 Charity, who opened a hostel around the same time that we launched and made the decision to accept clients who have dogs, with our support.  P3 is also the agency which is contacted when members of the public connect rough sleepers in Gloucester with local services through Streetlink, so they were able to guide us towards those who had pets, ensuring we could visit and register them quickly.  Over the last two years, we have been able to effectively network with the other homeless support charities in Gloucester by attending council-run homeless forums.  This has been invaluable in converting ‘no pet policies’ and in being referred to new eligible clients, without the need to  search for them in isolated and inconspicuous areas; homeless people are banned from sleeping in the city centre, so are forced to sleep rough out of sight and potentially without support.

How many Vet and RVN volunteers do you have?

We currently have 7 vet and 11 nurse volunteers and we conduct outreaches in groups of three.  We have the wonderful support of Jenny Cole at Noah’s Ark Rescue, who helps us transport our animals in her Animal Ambulance and we work closely with Teckels and Cheltenham Animal Shelter for kennelling options.  Day practice and surgical needs are conducted at SPA Vets and CAS Vets, while Wood Vets provide our out-of-hours cover, with several of their nurses assisting as outreach volunteers.

Are your owners in temporary housing, street homeless or hostel based etc?

At present, several of our owners are in hostel-based accommodation with their pets.  A few are still sleeping rough with theirs and others are in temporary housing, or moving into accommodation where our support will continue for a year.  We have worked hard to get those that want to be in accommodation into it.  We continue to explore ways in which we can encourage hostels that currently have ‘no pet’ policies to accept pets, but our work is very much ongoing.  We are now able to speak with local government officials and with the police and crime commissioner, to convey the StreetVet message and to influence policy changes at all levels in the highly complex area of Gloucestershire homeless housing strategy.  We will make our best effort to keep these conversations going and to break down any barriers which hinder people and their pets from being able to access accommodation in Gloucester.

A big thank you to Tim and the Gloucester team for providing this information!