29 August 2019

Once abandoned and left behind at a fair in Ilkeston, 12-year-old dog Tinto is now rescuing people who are facing some of the worst moments of their lives on the streets.

Kim Pike, 32, Nottingham's rough sleeping coordinator, adopted Tinto around five years ago from a rescue centre in Babbington.

It was only in the last six months that she decided to take the friendly lurcher out with the outreach team - who go out every morning from 4am to offer people on the streets help and support.

Kim explained how one of the most difficult aspects of her role is getting people to engage with the team- as years of trauma, substance misuse and mental health issues have them entrenched on the streets.

Tinto however, helps even some of the most reluctant people engage in conversation.

Rough Sleeping initiative Coordinator Kim Pike, 32, of Nottingham with her lurcher dog Tinto, 12

"Imagine if it's 4am and someone comes and wakes you up and says: 'are you going to come to the housing meeting today?'," Kim said.

"Imagine the worst day of your life, a crisis. When Tinto is with me she gives a five or 10-minute window to break that barrier.

"I took her out last week to see this one man who has been on the streets for around six months. She helped start a conversation.

"That man has now arranged to have a coffee with the outreach team."

As a former dog control worker for community protection, Kim said she has always enjoyed working with dogs and understands the impact they can have on many people's lives.

"You get pets as therapy dogs," she added.

"I think they just cheer people up and help take your mind off things, even in crisis, and it's working here.

"There are definitely people who would not have spoken to me if she was not there. If I see someone when I'm with Tinto and then I see them again without her, they will ask where she is.

"It makes them feel more like they know you, rather than just someone from the council.

"There's this one woman who is now housed and I take Tinto to her house to calm her down sometimes - so she doesn't go back to the streets.

"I bought her a chicken sandwich one day and she ended up feeding almost all of it to Tinto."

Kim, whose job entails coordinating the rough sleeping initiative for the city, said she will be bringing up Tinto's success in helping engage with some of the most hard to reach people during a meeting in London in September.

She added: "Our biggest reason we have that amount of people rough sleeping on the streets is refusals and trying to get people to engage.

"But we have to take our time. We cannot rush people. Some people spend 60 percent of their time in their accommodation and the other 40 percent on the streets.

"It can be like someone trying to force you to live somewhere you don't want to live. It's what they perceive as their home. You cannot rush people.

Source: NottinghamPost