Sophia Jama spotted a homeless man who was sleeping rough on the freezing streets of Hull, and tried to find him accommodation – but hostels turned him away because he has a “tiny” pet Jack Russell
A woman was left furious after hostels turned away a homeless man because he had a pet dog – forcing him to sleep rough on the freezing winter streets.
Sophia Jama spotted the rough sleeper sitting beside Lloyds Bank in Hull city centre last Friday and after speaking with him, she tried to find him somewhere to stay.
Though she’s not affiliated with any homeless charities, she decided to take on the task herself, fearing the injured man would suffer in the plunging temperatures, Hull Live reports.
After calling the city council’s urgent housing line, she was appalled when she was told he couldn’t stay anywhere because of his pet Jack Russell.
“I often stop and speak to homeless people,” Sophia said. “I have been brought up to chat with rough sleepers and treat them as human beings.
“After speaking to him I found out he had been sleeping rough somewhere near the Anlaby Road flyover. He had this tiny dog, like a Jack Russell.
“He had a bad leg and he was freezing but he told me he could not get in anywhere because of his dog.
“I didn’t think this was right so I called the council’s emergency number but they confirmed to me they could not find anywhere for him because of his pet.
“What struck me was there seemed to be no empathy from the man I spoke to. He told me he had never come across a rough sleeper with a pet before but I have seen a few all over Hull.
“Surely the man’s welfare comes before any policy relating to pets. He could have got hypothermia.
“I felt the council representative was not pragmatic, by not offering any solutions or signposting me to anyone who could help.”
“I was left with nothing else to do and I told the man I would be back to see him the next day.”
Hull City Council said there are a number of hostels that accept pets, but Sophia is concerned about the several shelters that turned him down.
After raising her concerns about the man, other homeless charities, Emmaus and Hull BID, have offered to help.
“A guy from Hull BID told me they know the guy but didn’t realise he was back sleeping rough,” Sophia said.
“He said he would try and help the man while I also contacted Emmaus who said they would try to find accommodation for him too.
“Emmaus said they knew the man who was already on a waiting list for accommodation.
“They are an amazing organisation who go out in all conditions throughout the year to help the homeless.”
Sophia has also taken to social media to raise the issue of rough sleepers being turned away because they have pets and she says she has attracted the attention of the likes of Look North presenter Peter Levy and MP Emma Hardy.
“It is an emotive issue,” she said, “but I feel turning someone away because they have a pet is immoral.
“Emmaus is looking into this issue and also trying to address the individual rough sleeper’s needs.
“But I would like to see this policy changed and urgent action for the most vulnerable in Hull as we are a caring city.”
But Sophia does not entirely blame the council. She believes it is a wider issue of funding.
“I feel the problem of rough sleeping has been exacerbated by the local government cuts made by the Conservative Government which have hit rough sleepers in Hull hard,” she said.
While Sophia was born in Hull, she is half Somali and was brought up to respect people from all walks of life.
“My Christian family has always encouraged me to help the homeless,” she said, “especially my mum who often befriended rough sleepers.
“That highlighted to me that companionship and positive communication are vital.
“Also pets as therapy is so pivotal for people’s well-being so to deny a rough sleeper an emergency hostel if he doesn’t part with his dog is not a compassionate approach.
“A lot of cafes in Hull allow people in with dogs – why should it be different with rough sleepers accessing emergency accommodation with pets?
“It’s good that Hull is getting more investment and businesses opening but that shouldn’t mean there is a real disparity with the most vulnerable.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.