UTS social enterprise Ruff Sleepers wins $101K grant
A social enterprise set up by UTS staff to help homeless people and their pets has won $101,000 of funding from the NSW Government to expand their activities.
Ruff Sleepers offers a dog washing service that also creates a safe space where people who are homeless can connect with others over a shared love of pets, and access help.
So far, their volunteers’ activities have been carried out with basic tubs, hoses and brushes. The grant will fund a grooming van with access to hot water and shelter, allowing them to wash more dogs in the cold months of winter, and the mobility reach a wider area and help more people.
Getting Ruff Sleepers up and running has been a cross-university effort, with support from UTS Startups, the UTS Business School, and UTS Shopfront in the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion.
“Ruff Sleepers is a concrete example of how UTS staff and students are passionate about social justice and giving back in our precinct. No other university could have auspiced such a desperately needed and entirely innovative service model to help homeless dogs and their owners doing it tough,” said Dr Bronwen Dalton, associate professor at UTS Business School and Director of its Masters of Not-for-Profit and Social Enterprise Program, and co-founder of Ruff Sleepers.
The idea for Ruff Sleepers emerged from Dalton discussing another project with her then student Linda Castelazzi who was exploring ways of reconnecting homeless people with their families.
“During Bronwen’s research of homelessness in Sydney, she found out the most in-demand service at a town-hall event for Sydney’s homeless was dog-washing and dog care services. So we thought, why don’t we try that?” said co-founder, Linda Castelazzi.
Not long after, another UTS Business student and community member of UTS Startups, Tully Rosen came on board as co-founder.
Ruff Sleepers also received support through the Shopfront Community program as their community partner. Students from the Business School are currency completing a Shopfront community coursework project with Ruff Sleepers, helping to develop their volunteer management plan.
Watch a Dog-umentary about Ruff Sleepers
Pets can help people get through the difficulties of sleeping rough, but those who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, face significant challenges in finding social housing willing to accommodate those with animals. Looking after their companion without proper access to veterinary care and grooming is difficult.
Since the beginning of 2017, Ruff Sleepers has washed and groomed over a hundred dogs and with the new funding, they aim to service even more. Alongside free grooming services, they distribute pet food and accessories, flea and worm treatments, referral to free vets and dog trainers, in partnership with volunteer vets through Pets in the Park.
They have also advocated for the rights of homeless people with pets, especially the right of housing, and raised public awareness of the value of pet ownership for the mental and physical health of those doing it tough.
Ruff Sleepers was successful in winning the public vote in the NSW My Community Project, directing funding from the NSW Government to projects that help improve the wellbeing of people and communities. 61,437 people voting for their favourite projects.