Published: 20:29, 13 October 2021
| Updated: 20:43, 13 October 2021
It's official. Maidstone council has finally permanently adopted a ground-breaking new policy regarding the housing of homeless people who have pets.
The policy will be officially named the John Chadwick Pet Policy in memory of a homeless man who took his own life just 10 days after being forbidden from taking his dogs and cats into the emergency accommodation found for him.
The council had already adjusted its policy on the temporary emergency accommodation that it owns, allowing the homeless to take their pets with them.
But when it comes to moving them on to permanent accommodation, usually in private ownership, there are still landlords who won't take pets.
A year ago, the council decided on a trial basis, that any formerly homeless people who declined a permanent offer of accommodation because they could not take their pets with them, would be allowed to stay on in the temporary housing without losing their place on the housing register.
The council's housing and inclusion manager Hannah Gaston told members of the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee that seven households had benefited from the policy over the past 12 months, after private landlords had refused permission for their pets.
As a result the average length of stay in the council's temporary accommodation had increased from 85 to 90 days, but that had had no adverse effect on the council's budget.
In fact, the bill which the council faces for temporary housing had been falling from £687, 942 in 2019-20, to £510,755 in 2020-21.
It was projected to drop still further to £495,000 in the current year.
Councillors voted unanimously to make the scheme permanent after hearing from Dee Bonett, a friend of John Chapman, who has been campaigning for the change ever since his death in 2017.
She said: "I would like to thank officers and members of the committee, from my heart for the progressive change, we have achieved together.
"This journey started as a result of my very best friend John Chadwick, becoming separated from his pets, his lifelines, and placed in emergency accommodation.
She said: "He died by suicide within 10 days of this separation, on March 16, 2017.
"The committee has not only been welcoming to me, but also prepared to listen and think outside the box."
Thanking the committee for not only adopting the new policy, but also naming it after Mr Chadwick, she said: "This truly is fitting tribute to John Chadwick's legacy for change."
Ms Bonett said: “The council should be applauded."