Since 1983, the amazing people at Jewish House have been helping those who have nowhere else to turn. Their new project, Project HoPe, looks to offer shelter to those left behind. Man, woman or animal.
Jewish House is an independent, not-for-profit charity providing crisis intervention and prevention services in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Founded in 1983 by brothers Anthony and Roger Clifford, the organisation was begun with the intent of providing early intervention assistance and vital services to help people rebuild their lives after a major life event or crisis; a tradition of care which continues today.
With its doors open without bias to people, regardless of their religion or cultures, Jewish House provides compassion and help for those in the community who need it most.
One person who has enjoyed the hospitality and support offered by Jewish House is “Leah”, who asked us to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy. We spoke to Leah about her experiences there, and how their policies helped her when she was at her most vulnerable.
“I was at Jewish House with my daughter and two boys (cats), Jasper and Leo. It was the safest, cleanest and most supportive crisis care we experienced—at this point, we had moved eight times. They offered resources suitable to our needs and made us feel comfortable. Jewish House went above and beyond and provided support other crisis places did not.”
It won’t come as any kind of surprise to pet owners that the safety and presence of your furry companions can be of the utmost importance. For Leah, the knowledge that she could bring her cats with her made all the world of difference.
“Through our homelessness journey I was told I had to give up the boys and I knew that I couldn’t, I was not leaving them, they are a part of the family.”
Leah knows what many survivors of domestic violence know: that it doesn’t just impact you, it impacts your whole family—even the four-legged members of the family.
“I couldn’t leave them (behind),” she said. “There was a period of two weeks where we were ‘homeless by choice’ because I wouldn’t leave them. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t anywhere with compassion for pets too. Having them with us was crucial to my wellbeing and mental health.
“(Jewish House) supported me and our beloved cats in a medical way; by that I mean self-care, love and support.”
While she doesn’t want to dwell on the negatives or the “what ifs”, Leah does acknowledge that her circumstances could have become even more dire had Jewish House not come to her and her family’s aid.
“We were in dire straits, we had nothing, we had nowhere to go. Without Jewish House, we would have had to stay off the beaten track and live in a tent. In the 24 hours before finding Jewish House they were threatening to take my daughter because I wouldn’t sacrifice the boys—it was an apocalypse for my world. I really feel finding Jewish House was a miracle.”
The impact Jewish House has had on Leah’s life is not something that she takes for granted.
“It was a big reminder that there is compassion in this human world we live in. Honestly, it changed my life. Going through homelessness from where I was to where I am—spiritually, physically and mentally, I couldn’t have done without them. The support they provide in building self-esteem, not treating you any differently, it had an enormous impact.”
Finding respite from some stressful situations at home is one thing, but moving forward from there presents another set of challenges to overcome. Leah was fortunate enough to enjoy the services of Project HoPe.
“Without Project HoPe we wouldn’t have been able to get our rental home we are in now,” Leah enthusiastically says.
Since it opened in 2013, the Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic in the Sydney suburb of St Peters has become the one with a reputation earning it the moniker as being the port of call for homeless people with sick or injured pets. An extension of this is Project HoPe (HoPe being the contraction of “Homeless Pets”). It was the connection of Southern Cross’ resident vet Dr Sam Kovac, who extended the clinic’s reach to incorporate their services with Jewish House. This all came about thanks to Dr Sam’s connection to Jewish House’s Rabbi Mendel.
Rabbi Mendel sees an unbreakable link between people and their pets, which can be the cause of tremendous stress if they are faced with the prospect of being separated.
“We recognise there are people who are very attached to their pets and need them for support,” Rabbi Mendel said. “The services need to recognise that and include capacity to help them with their pets.
“A strong realignment is needed in how we approach homelessness.”
The facilities for de-sexing Leah’s furry friends made all the difference in her ability to secure a new rental for her family.
“We managed to find a place that would accept cats, but they needed to be de-sexed. Project HoPe was thankfully able to end the cycle of homelessness for me and my daughter. After experiencing homelessness for about a year you need to get out of the fuzz. It really breaks you down, you need to be able to build yourself up again. De-sexing played a direct role in ending our cycle of homelessness.”