Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. The first grant of 2024 was awarded to Community Veterinary Outreach.
Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO) is a registered charity that provides free veterinary care to animals of individuals who are unhoused and vulnerably housed. CVO works in collaboration with human health and social services to improve the health and well-being of people and animals together.
According to Myra Emery, a volunteer with the outreach service, the local team held their first clinic at the Integrated Care Hub on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, and want to run clinics quarterly at different locations across Kingston.
“Many homeless individuals have an amazingly strong bond with their animals and want to seek veterinary care, but can’t afford the bill,” she explained. “The individuals themselves may also be in need of health and/or social services, but are not in the position to access these services. Collaboration between veterinarians and human health providers allows the needs of both to be met in a holistic manner that builds trust and understanding between everyone involved.”
Both veterinarian and human health services would be provided at a pop-up clinic and the Integrated Care Hub and would provide basic animal check-ups, deworming, vaccines, and tick treatment, Emery noted. Human health care could include service referral, access to smoking cessation resources, and flu/covid vaccines, Naloxone access, and more.
Emery, a social worker at Providence Care who works with many individuals who are homeless or precariously housed and have pets, made it clear that this outreach was not her idea, but she did have the idea to pitch it to Awesome Kingston for support.
CVO was first started in Ottawa by Michelle Lem who is a veterinarian and now a practicing social worker, Emery noted. CVO clinics are run across Canada, including Vancouver, Kelowna, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, York region, and now Kingston.
“I did my Master of Social Work placement with Michelle and CVO about 10 years ago. I saw firsthand the positive impact it had on vulnerable people and their animals,” Emery shared with Kingstonist.
“I have wanted to bring this initiative to Kingston since I started my career here as a social worker. Fortunately, the stars aligned over this past year and I was connected with veterinarians, Dr. Andrew Winterborn and Dr. Rea Marcelissen, and Providence Care’s Assertive Community Treatment Team Manager, Leeanne Couvrette who all shared the same vision.”
When asked how she saw this initiative play out locally, Emery said that fortunately, there is already a team of health care workers and veterinarians who are invested in the mandate of CVO.
“At our first Kingston clinic at the Integrated Care Hub, we worked in collaboration with Public Health and the Heart Institute to provide vaccines, sexual health testing and smoking cessation resources. We are hoping to run our next clinic at the end of April and are working hard to get this together,” she expressed.
CVO provides care pro-bono and is funded by corporate sponsors and donations. According to Emery, the clinics are costly to run and would not be possible without in-kind support from both donors and volunteers.
The money from the Awesome Kingston grant will be used to pay for items not donated, such as animal vaccines, food for clients and volunteers during the clinic, and other supplies.
“I know personally how profound our relationships to animal friends can be. For some people, companion animals are their only safe, consistent relationship, especially if they are socially isolated, which is often the case for individuals who are living homeless or marginally housed,” Emery explained
“We need to make sure everyone in our community is taken care of and we can do this creatively by meeting the health and social needs of people and their animals in the same place.”
“Every bit of help makes a huge difference!”