by Lorie Lewis Ham
A couple months ago we learned about this incredible animal rescue in Fresno called Westside Rescue, that was not only helping animals but helping the homeless. We had the chance recently to chat with one of their volunteers, Ashley Hughes.
KRL: How and when did WR come to be?
Ashley: Westside Rescue was formed in 2010 by Steve and Janie Partain, after they went downtown with a group from their church. They quickly noticed how many of the homeless population had pets and realized there weren’t any resources to help those pet owners, so they started the group to assist that demographic.
KRL: What exactly does WR do?
Ashley: Westside Rescue works with the homeless and poverty-stricken pet owners of downtown Fresno by providing access, as available, to proper vet care and nutrition for their pets. We assist them by vaccinating their animals, supplementing their pet’s food supply, and, most importantly, providing very low cost spay/neuter services. We require any returning clients to have their pets fixed in order to receive ongoing assistance.
KRL: Tell us a little more about what you do to try to keep the homeless with their pets, and why you felt this was important?
Ashley: Many of our clients love their animals like family but simply don’t have the necessary funds to provide adequate care for them. By working with and educating them, we can avoid sending another animal to a kill shelter to be euthanized, which is a huge problem in the Central Valley and one that the majority of rescues in the area are striving to correct.
KRL: Have you seen the need for helping the homeless rise over the last few years?
Ashley: We usually see a new face or two every time we go downtown, but a lot of our clients are regulars who have been with us for longer periods of time. However, we have found that there is a rise in people who live in the community and are not homeless that are seeking low-cost care for their pets. We have tried to answer this by sponsoring “No Way Stray” clinics, which take place monthly and are open to the community.
KRL: Tell us more about what you do to help get dogs and cats spayed and neutered?
Ashley: We are fortunate enough to partner with some amazing groups, including H.O.P.E. and The S.N.I.P. Team, as well as our veterinarian, that help us provide low-cost spay/neuter options for our clients. We ask our clients to pay whatever they can and then find a way to sponsor the rest of the costs. Because our homeless clients downtown don’t have adequate transportation, we use “Pet Cab,” where volunteers pick up and drop off animals to and from surgeries and vet appointments.
KRL: Do you also operate as a regular rescue with foster homes, adoption events, etc?
Ashley: Because our focus is on helping the homeless in downtown Fresno, we do not run the group as a traditional rescue. We do not have a facility to house any animals, so adoption events don’t play into what we do. We are, however, always interested in speaking with people who may be able to provide foster homes as, more often than not, we do run into a stray that needs a safe place to stay while looking for a new home.
KRL: Do you have a specific location?
Ashley: We set up on Friday nights directly across the street from the Fresno Rescue Mission on G. Street. We begin at 6:40 and end around 8pm. Our mailing address is: 5755 W. Barstow Avenue, Suite 103, Fresno, CA 93722.
Ashley: The majority of our clients own dogs, though it isn’t uncommon for a cat or two to show up on a Friday night. Once in a great while we’ll have someone bring a rabbit by. A few months ago, we were even stopped by a woman who had recently acquired a horse and was seeking advice on equestrian care.
KRL: Do you just help out with dogs and cats or other animals as well?
KRL: How many volunteers do you have?
Ashley: We’re a pretty small group; at any given time, we have less than 10 active volunteers. On a typical Friday night, there may be about 6-7 of us downtown. If you’re interested in volunteering, please check out our website and find out how you can help!
KRL: Where can people find your website?
KRL: Future goals?
Ashley: We would love to acquire a small trailer that we can use to house all of our inventory. Having all of our supplies in one spot would make loading and unloading much more efficient.
As always, one of our top priorities is to raise the necessary funds to provide spay and neuter surgeries for many more of the animals that we encounter.
KRL: Any special events coming up yet this year?
Ashley: Around the holidays, we put on a Christmas BBQ for the homeless. We supply food, clothing, toys, and hygiene supplies at that event. It’s a massive undertaking and we’re always so fortunate to have volunteers who are willing to donate their time and energy to make it a success! Future fundraisers are still in the making – as of now, no dates have been set. (Keep an eye on KRL’s animal rescue event page for info on future Westside events)
KRL: What are your specific needs?
Ashley: We are always in need of supplies: dog, cat, and puppy food, (wet and dry), as well as collars and leashes. We can also use items for hygiene kits: toothpaste/brushes, deodorant, soap, razors, batteries (AA/AAA), etc.
KRL: Anything else you want to add?
Ashley: Healthy, adoptable animals are being euthanized in alarming numbers every day across the Central Valley, but you can be part of the solution. If you are in need of information on low-cost spay/neuter, vaccinations, or micro-chipping, we would love to have the opportunity to talk to you. Please ‘Like’ our Facebook page for more information.