Date of Conferral





Social Work


Tracey Phillips


Over 71% of American homeless individuals are adults over 25 years of age, and the numbers are increasing. Approximately 25% of homeless individuals own a companion animal (CA). Because most service providers do not allow CAs within their facilities, the current $60.2 billion dollar national budget for homeless resources may be underutilized or forfeited altogether by homeless adults with a CA. The purpose of this study was to explore community service utilization by homeless adults with a CA through the lens of attachment theory. The research question addressed the lived experiences and perceptions of homeless adults who own CAs regarding community service utilization. This is a qualitative, hermeneutic phenomenological study in which 11 participants were interviewed individually from a semi-structured, researcher created questionnaire. Participants were homeless adults at an emergency shelter in Texas or Oklahoma where their CAs were allowed. Through coding and thematic analysis, 3 themes developed: familial attachment to a CA, a willingness to forego services that do not accommodate their CA, and false belief in their CA as a necessary service provider. The results of this study builds upon the existing body of knowledge regarding homelessness, CAs, and community services as well as informs service provision, education, and policy. Positive social change implications include awareness of the perceptions and beliefs provided by this unique unsheltered sub-population who experienced physical illnesses, trauma, and a close familial bond with their CA. Their lived experiences are key indicators for community service providers and governmental organizations consideration in reference to budgeting allocations and future research.