Front Street’s Homeless Outreach and Assistance Program makes ‘huge difference’ in lives of pets, owners

Front Street Animal Shelter’s Homeless Outreach and Assistance Program (HOAP) has conducted nearly 1,600 visits with pets and owners in the year since its launch, according to data recently released by the shelter.

Those visits included nearly 1,300 contacts for preventive medical care, 150 medical exams and 110 surgeries. In addition, more than 630 pets were microchipped and 125 were spay/neutered. In total, 1,078 animals and 601 owners have received services.

Created in May 2022 with Measure U funding, HOAP addresses the tremendous need for pet-related services among unsheltered residents in Sacramento, said Phillip Zimmerman, manager of Front Street Animal Shelter.

“While many people in our community are struggling with the high costs of pet ownership and decreased availability of veterinary care, the unsheltered population faces some of the greatest challenges,” Zimmerman said. “We had been assisting unsheltered pet owners for years to the best of our ability, but it wasn’t enough. HOAP is an innovative program with dedicated staff specifically assigned to provide assistance where it’s needed most.”

The HOAP team includes a program coordinator, registered veterinary technicians, animal control officers, and other support staff. Services offered include vaccinations, microchips, arranging spay or neuter surgeries, in-the-field vet exams, assisting with veterinary care, distributing pet supplies and more.

“Animals are often a lifeline for people experiencing homelessness, providing emotional support, companionship and safety through challenging times”, said Jenna Topper, HOAP coordinator at Front Street. “In a reality where individuals face multiple barriers toward accessing housing, our team is dedicated to supporting people and their pets so that animal-related obstacles are not one of them.”

One way the program removes obstacles is by getting animals fixed and vaccinated, which are often requirements for pet ownership in shelters and long-term housing solutions.  Additionally, HOAP has worked with case managers, navigators and transitional shelter staff to ensure clients had the updated vaccination records needed to pursue housing or stay complaint with housing policies.

“There are many challenges we are working to overcome, including limited availability for spay and neuter surgery, transportation, and difficulty hiring a full-time veterinarian for the program,” Zimmerman said. “But our small team has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of people and animals, and the gratitude of the pet owners is what keeps us striving to improve and serve as many as possible.”

%d bloggers like this: