The LA Homeless Shelters Now Must Accept Service Animals

Guard Dog

Joel John Roberts is the CEO of PATH Partners (an alliance of agencies that deal with homelessness), as well as the author of the book titled How To Increase Homelessness. He is also the publisher of Poverty Insights, a national online journal on homelessness, housing, and poverty, and he covers the “LA Homelessness” beat for

Roberts brings us news of the results of a lawsuit that’s been filed in mid-July of 2009. The suit was brought by the Housing Rights Center (HRC), and presented under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the  Fair Housing Act.

The issue? The ability of the disabled homeless to bring their service animals into shelters.

Roberts reports on

‘It’s a serious and systemic problem,’ commented Michelle Uzeta, Director of Litigation for HRC. ‘These shelters put people with disabilities in the impossible position of having to choose between the service animals that provide them with needed disability-related assistance and the ability to access emergency shelter services.’

Recently, a settlement occurred with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the joint city and county authority on homelessness that directs all LAHSA-funded agencies to provide reasonable modifications to their policies and facilities for homeless people with service animals.

While the critics cite a variety of objections to this mandate — including disruption of the shelter environment — from a legal standpoint, is seems that the issue is settled. There is a disproportionate percentage of the homeless that are physically or mentally disadvantaged, and a number of them rely on service animals to function on a daily basis.

What do you think? Seeing-eye dogs are allowed on public transportation, so should they be allowed into homeless shelters? Should other service animals have a place in these environments?

Source: “Los Angeles homeless agencies mandated to take in service animals,”, 07/30/10
Image by libookperson, used under its Creative Commons license.

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One comment

  1. SLS says:

    I have mental disabilities and I am homeless with my therapy animal.
    I have spent a lot of time researching the shelter situation in Los
    Angeles the past couple of weeks. That includes calling 211 quite a few times, and responding to other’s referrals. NO ONE will accept me with a therapy animal, and that includes anyone I talked to at PATH! I get SSI and need temporary shelter until my Section 8 gets organized and then I can look for a place. I have no family or friends to help me. I am a 62 year old women with a therapy cat, alone, broke, and struggling with my disabilities. I need an advocate but can’t find one. Even Adult Protective Services didn’t respond. 211 filed a report for them to help me, more than two weeks ago. I’ve spent the very last money I had on the motel room here today, 4/24/03, Tuesday. I’ve had a phone here and the internet. I’ve tried so very hard to get someone to help me, even mental health, reaching one dead end after another. I just can’t believe it, in Los Angeles? Trust me, no one will take me because I have a service animal. “Oh no we don’t allow animals.”
    Why aren’t these shelters/housing aware of the law, by now at least? It’s heartbreaking. Ignorance? Will somebody please inform/educate these people? I’m shocked to see someone from PATH wrote a book about it and the people running the place or answering the phones are completely unaware. And P.S., most of them don’t seem to care. It’s just another of many phone calls they answer, that’s all.
    And one more comment. Why are so many places called “Emergency Shelters.” I think I found only one place that would provide shelter
    that evening. You just come and get in line, and it’s first come first served until they’re full. The others required you to come at a certain time, usually early am, on certain weekdays to be accepted and get a case worker. They have regular business hours on the days that they process these intakes. And they are very stern about their policies. Most, but not all, seem very detached.
    A person like myself could not get to a place at 7 or 8am. How does a senior, with mental challenges, and a therapy cat get the shelter they
    need? It’s laughable. I don’t understand, I can’t be the first one to
    need a place to stay with a service animal and be denied. Why is this happening???
    Anyway, I hope that someone will read this that can make a difference by informing people of the rights that disabled people have
    concerning their legal right to have their therapy or service animal
    with them and accomidated wherever they go. The whole staff needs to know, especially the people who answer the phones. And how about 211 ?
    Working together for the good of all, SLS

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