We are in awe of Yvonne, Founder, CEO and Chairperson of Pets for the Homeless (POTH) and how much compassion she has for all living things.
Yvonne founded POTH in 2015, after volunteering in animal rescues and soup kitchens for the homeless. Yvonne would stop to chat to those living on the streets with their pets, buying them and their pets food.
Her need to do more for these people and animal become strong she kept seeing over and over again the simplest of needs was not being tended to. It was then Pets Of The Homeless Australia was born.
With no funding or support, Yvonne bought pet supplies and set out on the street herself to hand the items out. Sharing stories of her experiences on social media, she saw that people resonated with her work; the online community started to grow and the donations came flooding in. Pets of The Homeless Australia’s story shows how one person’s passion to incite change in one small area can spark a community of kindness into doing something about a greater issue.
We sat down and chatted to Yvonne to find out more about this remarkable woman.
Tell us a bit about Pets Of The Homeless and how long they have been operating?
Pets Of The Homeless is a charity that helps vulnerable pet owners in need by assisting them with pet food, veterinary care and emergency boarding and we have been doing this for 3 years.
What inspired you to start POTH?
It combines two of issues that I am most passionate about which is animal welfare and homelessness so it makes sense to start something to address a gap in the current system.
Tell us about some of the challenges and the rewards of running POTH ?
The biggest challenge for me is human resources. We are a volunteer-run organisation with most of our volunteers working full time in their jobs from Monday to Friday so it does take me a long time to achieve some of the organisational goals I have set but for a small and young charity like ours, I would say that we are still kicking goals and for that I am very proud of what we have achieved. The biggest reward of running POTH is knowing that we are making a real difference to the lives of so many people who otherwise have no one else to turn to for help.
What would you say is your biggest achievement with POTH?
That our work speaks for itself and how the word has managed to spread about our work in the homelessness sector. A lot of people have heard about us and recommended us to their peers and I am always in awe about how they found out about us.
I imagine you would have seen some living conditions at would be unimaginable to some, how does this affect you and what do you think we can do to help? Or on a broader spectrum, what can the government be doing to help the homeless?
We need affordable housing and more of it and we also need to ensure that they are pet-friendly. Too many people have been turned down for housing because they have a pet.
If any of the animals you encounter need medical assistance, do you have the means to help treat these animals?
Yes, we do. We would organise for the animal to go to one of our partner vet clinics to be treated. This is one of the reasons why we fundraise so hard because we want to be able to help whenever we asked to.
Who inspires you?
All the kickass women out there who are busy juggling work, family and maintaining a social life. Life is definitely much harder for us females because work doesn’t end when we get home. Far from it!
What does an average working day look like for you?
The alarm goes off at 6am and I start the day off by looking at my phone (it helps to wake me up) to answer any comments or messages on our social media pages. The next thing I will do is write a to-do list for the day if I haven’t already done so. I tend to do this the night before if I can so that I can anticipate what needs to be done the following day and I am much more productive because of it.
Then I hit the ground running by answering emails and responding to voice mails. We get referred to by a lot of social workers so a big chunk of the day is spent liaising with them to assist with their client’s needs. A lot of work that I do or the assistance that we provide is over the phone and the computer so an average working day for me involves me being glued to the screens all day. Then there are days which requires me to drive around to meet up with people, pick up animals or donations or both!
My days ends with me looking at my phone before I go to sleep around midnight.
If you could invite 5 people to a dinner party, dead or alive who would you choose and why?.... And what would you serve them?
I would probably say my family because I don’t get to see them much and if I have the time to host a dinner party, then they would definitely be at the top of my list to invite. As to what I will be serving them, it will probably be take away because I am too busy to cook! Malaysian cuisine will be my choice because that’s where I am from and I miss the food.
What is one thing you can't live without that you think everyone should have?
This is a tough one. If we are talking about an item, then I would say my phone. I cannot live without my phone. It does not leave my side.
If it is not some tangible then I would say companionship. I don’t think anyone should ever be alone because when you have someone to share your life with, whether it is your partner, friends or your pet, it can turn even a bad day into a good one.
What is one unnecessary thing that you think people should give up?
For me, it would be the materialistic lifestyle. I think life would be just that much better if we value other things that money can’t buy.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
To be honest I am not sure. I value everything that I have been through because it has allowed me to grow as a person. I wouldn’t have changed anything that has happened in the past.
Tell us why you love what you do?
Because I am helping others. What’s not to love?
How can people get involved and help POTA?
Help us to spread the word about the work we do by following and sharing our work on social media and volunteer your time to help us fundraise because our goal in the next 12 months is to secure a warehouse space to start Victoria’s very first pet food bank and we need all the help we can get.