Fresno, like many big cities, has a homeless problem. I know it’s not very FresYes to point that out, but it is the sad truth. What IS FresYes is an amazing local organization called Westside Rescue that has made it their mission to help beloved homeless animals and their owners downtown. I took some time recently to get to know them and their work a little more.
Westside Rescue was started in 2010 by Steve and Janie Partain. The couple was downtown with their church, handing out food, when they realized there was a need for proper pet care and nutrition for the animals that some of the homeless individuals kept as companions.
“Our mission is to provide preventative care to the companion animals of Fresno’s homeless while preserving the dignity of their owners,” Westside says.
Westside Rescue volunteers go downtown twice a month to provide services and give out supplies. Many clients are regulars who they have helped for years. Others come via word-of-mouth. Westside provides homeless pet owners with dog and cat food, collars, leashes, blankets, toys, treats and more. They also provide human supplies like pillows, clothing, water, hygiene items and snacks.
The group also takes animals to a partner clinic to spay or neuter them, then return the pets to their owners, in order to help reduce pet overpopulation in the Valley.
Why is it so important for Westside to help these animals, especially when many people tell the group that they think the homeless should not be keeping pets? First, Westside recognizes that despite anyone’s opinion, the reality is that many homeless individuals have companion animals that need help. The group believes that it’s beneficial to keep pets with their owners because it keeps them out of shelters and provides the owners with security, companionship and, for some, a reason to continue on.
“We believe that all people and animals deserve a healthy, safe, and happy life,” Westside says. “Regardless of someone’s socioeconomic status, we will do whatever we can to help them achieve that goal.”
Westside says that, in their experience, a large portion of the homeless population in Fresno is looking for a hand up, not just a hand-out. The nature of the organization provides the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with clients, who come to trust Westside and become their most vocal supporters. The reward of seeing clients go on to live a better life off the streets is also a privilege for volunteers.
There are many ways you can help if you’re interested in furthering the work of Westside Rescue. Right now, their most pressing goal is building their volunteer base. You can, of course volunteer on Friday nights when the group goes downtown and at special events. If you’re looking to do something a little different, they need people to act as Pet Cabs, transporting pets to and from spay & neuter appointments. A grant writer is also needed, so that the organization can apply for more funding. Contact Westside Rescue on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Westside always accepts donations of supplies; you can find a list of what they need here. They are also constantly in need of Costco gift cards for pet food purchases and monetary donations, as they have an on-going list of animals who are waiting to be spayed or neutered. Surgeries cost $50 for a male (neuter) and $100 for a female (spay). The organization would also like to remind you to spay/neuter and microchip your own pets to help control animal overpopulation!
In the meantime, Westside Rescue continues to help the homeless in Fresno and their pets, ensuring that these special relationships can thrive. A schedule of their outings can be found here on their website.
“The day when all companion animals are healthy, altered, fed, and in their own homes is the day we can truly say we have completed our job,” Westside says.
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