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First-Ever Pet-Inclusive Homeless Shelter in New York City Piloted at New Bronx Site 

Urban Resource Institute & NYC Department of Homeless Services have partnered to launch an innovative pet-inclusive pilot with the opening of a new high-quality, purpose-built shelter, using the PALS program as a model

New York, NY (May 2, 2024) – Urban Resource Institute (URI) and the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) have unveiled Uplift Families Residence, a groundbreaking transitional housing facility in the Bronx that welcomes families experiencing homelessness along with their beloved pets. 

Uplift, boasting 161 purpose-built units and 587 beds, marks a pivotal shift towards inclusivity and support for vulnerable families with pets. Inspired by URI’s successful People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program for survivors of domestic violence, launched 10 years ago in partnership with the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA), this initiative pioneers pet-inclusive sheltering in the city, starting with a pilot phase for five families and their pets at Uplift Families Residence. 

This site exemplifies DHS’s ongoing efforts to partner with experienced not-for-profit human services providers to build high-quality shelters and strengthen the delivery of services. Uplift Families Residence is part of the agency’s not-for-profit-owned shelter model which gives provider-partners, like URI, the opportunity to own the shelters they operate, including funding for ground-up constructions of purpose-built designed shelters that meet the unique needs of families experiencing homelessness. 

“Pets are part of the family. Moreover, we know from our research and a decade of the URI People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) program – 50% of survivors would not leave an abusive home unless they could take their pet with them. Regardless of the reason, unhoused families need access to safe and stable temporary and permanent housing. Being able to take their pet with them is critical in rebuilding their lives.” emphasized Nathaniel Fields, CEO of Urban Resource Institute. “As the largest homeless families shelter in New York City, Uplift embodies URI’s commitment to providing comprehensive and inclusive support to families in need. We believe that everyone deserves a safe and supportive environment to rebuild their lives. The opening of Uplift and the pilot phase of the PALS program represent a significant step forward in our efforts to address homelessness in New York City. By prioritizing the needs of homeless families and their pets, we are creating a more inclusive and compassionate shelter system that reflects the diverse needs of our communities.”  

“Today we are taking an important step in our ongoing efforts to enhance city shelters as we continue to raise the bar on our supports for New Yorkers experiencing homelessness,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park. “This incredible project exemplifies the Adams Administration’s commitment to making vital investments in developing high-quality shelters while giving our not-for-profit human services providers the opportunity to own the very shelters they operate. We are very grateful for our long-standing partnership with the Urban Resources Institute as part of our shared mission to provide holistic services in shelter settings that are designed with great intention and care to truly deliver for vulnerable New Yorkers.”

“We are proud to open the doors to this first-of-its-kind shelter with our incredible partners at URI whose proven track record of success and deep investment in providing meaningful supports for vulnerable New Yorkers make them best-positioned to spearhead this ground-breaking pilot,” said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. “At DHS, we are always looking to implement innovative shelter models that strengthen our trauma-informed and human-centered delivery of services so we can better support our clients on their path to obtaining long-term housing stability. We recognize what an absolutely critical role pets play in the lives of some of our most vulnerable households during difficult times so we’re very excited to introduce this pet-inclusive approach to the DHS shelter system for the first time ever.”

“Uplift represents a new era in homeless services, where families are not only provided with shelter but also the opportunity to stay together with their pets. We recognize the profound impact pets have on the healing process and are committed to supporting families in their journey towards stability and self-sufficiency,” said Angela Thompson, Vice President of Homeless Families Programs at Urban Resource Institute.

The PALS Program, launched by URI in 2013, has since expanded to 11 shelters across NYC, serving approximately 600 families and 800 pets to date, with the current caseload of 70 families per night. Domestic violence shelters are operated in partnership with NYC HRA; shelters for families experiencing homelessness are overseen by DHS. URI’s trauma-informed approach to temporary housing prioritizes the holistic healing of families, including their pets. 

In addition to shelter, URI provides comprehensive services to both DV and homeless families residents, such as case management, mental health support, counseling, advocacy, transportation assistance, childcare, and access to food pantries. The URI Economic Empowerment Program equips residents with financial education, workforce training, and resources for economic recovery, reinforcing URI’s commitment to ending cycles of violence and homelessness. These programmatic resources create a holistic continuum of care for URI residents. 

“The impact of PALS in domestic violence shelters has been profound. Over the past decade, PALS has provided a lifeline for survivors, allowing them to heal alongside their beloved pets and empowering them to rebuild their lives free from violence. The success of PALS in domestic violence shelters demonstrates that this model can also be effectively implemented in homeless families shelters, ensuring that families experiencing homelessness can stay together with their pets, fostering a sense of safety, stability, and healing,” said Danielle Emery, Program Director for People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) at Urban Resource Institute. 

“Today, with the launch of Uplift Families Residence, the first pet-inclusive temporary housing facility here in the Bronx, we recognize that pets are not just animals but cherished family members whose presence can provide immense comfort and stability during challenging times,” said Senator Nathalia Fernandez. “By keeping unhoused families and their pets together, we are embracing a more compassionate, holistic approach to healing.” 

“All New Yorkers deserve safe and stable housing in our city and with this pilot program, survivors of domestic abuse and other vulnerable New Yorkers will also now have their furry friends with them,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “I want to thank the Urban Resource Institute and the New York City Department of Homeless Services for piloting a pet-inclusive temporary housing facility that will provide unhoused New Yorkers with the support and resources they need to heal and feel empowered.”

“All of us animal lovers know that pets are beloved members of our families. When families are dealing with homelessness it is unfair to add the burden of abandoning their pets to an already stressful and traumatic situation. That is what makes pet-friendly shelters like this so urgent and necessary. We have a vision for the future of transitional housing for our families, and that future is pet-friendly. I am incredibly proud that URI’s pilot program of the first-ever pet friendly shelter for families experiencing homelessness in New York City, is here in Castle Hill. Thank you to Mayor Eric Adams, our Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, DHS Commissioner Molly Wasow Park, and the entire team at URI for your attention to the Bronx’s needs and to keeping women and families safe from domestic violence,” said Amanda Farias, New York City Council Majority Leader. 

“Companion animals are family and families should be able to stay together, especially during some of the hardest times of their lives. Falling on hardship is one of the major reasons animals end up in shelters, and New York can lead the way by providing spaces where companions can stay with their guardians—which is currently limited. Not only will this help uplift the spirits of those experiencing homelessness, but it will keep animals out of our overburdened shelter system,” said Allie Taylor, President, Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR). 

NYC DHS works to ensure that the city is meeting the unique needs of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness while ensuring the health and safety of the tens of thousands of households the DHS shelter system serves every day. As of today, pets are not permitted in DHS shelters, and the agency makes reasonable accommodations for verified Emotional Support Animals and service animals on a case-by-case basis.   

Allowing families to co-live in shelter with their pets will spare families without emotional support or service animals the pain of separating from a beloved family member.
This expansion of the PALS program to include families experiencing homelessness at Uplift addresses a critical need, removing a significant barrier to accessing shelter services for households with pets, and reflects DHS’s commitment to constantly finding new ways to raise the bar on supports for families in need.

About Urban Resource Institute (URI):
URI is the largest provider of temporary housing for survivors of domestic violence in the country and a leading provider of transitional housing for families experiencing homelessness. Committed to ending cycles of violence and homelessness, URI offers trauma-informed, client-centered support to the families it serves. With 24 shelters in New York City, including 15 shelters specifically for domestic violence survivors, URI provides temporary housing to over 3,700 people each night and trauma-informed programming to approximately 40,000 people annually. Learn more by visiting www.urinyc.org. 

About the New York City Department of Social Services:  

The Department of Social Services, comprised of the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), serves millions of New Yorkers annually through a broad range of services that aim to address poverty, income inequality, and prevent homelessness. HRA serves over three million New Yorkers through the administration of more than 12 major public assistance programs. DHS oversees a broad network of shelters, services, and outreach programs dedicated to helping New Yorkers experiencing homelessness get back on their feet. DSS is central to the City’s mission to expand opportunity for more New Yorkers, address income inequality, help New Yorkers experiencing homelessness stabilize their lives, and ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers receive the benefits and assistance for which they may be eligible. 

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