Lost Our Home Pet Rescue meets the needs of pets and people in crisis

For many, pets are part of the family.

When Annemarie Czenszak – or Annie as her friends call her – became homeless, leaving her 10-year-old miniature schnauzer Baloo and 9-year-old schnoodle Chiquita was not an option.

“When you don’t have two-legged kids, your pets are your kids,” Czenszak said. “I couldn’t leave my dogs, but I couldn’t enter a shelter either because I had them with me.”

Czenszak was referred to Lost Our Home Pet Rescue, a Tempe-based shelter that provides support for pet parents during difficult times.

She brought Baloo and Chiquita to the shelter to be cared for while she sought help for herself.

Lost Our Home has helped many pet (and pet) owners like Czenszak, Baloo and Chiquita over the past decade. But now the shelter is asking for help from the community to fund renovations to continue providing a safe and healthy environment for dogs and cats in need.

Respond to animals (and people) in need

Jodi Polanski, founder and executive director of Lost Our Home Pet Rescue, was a local mortgage broker during the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

She was a mortgage broker for 13 years and has always loved pets. Some of the real estate agents she worked with, knowing her soft spot for animals, shared stories of pets being abandoned in foreclosed homes at record rates during the foreclosure crisis.

“I kept wondering what happened to these pets who were abandoned without food or water, left outside or brought to shelters because their owners had no other choice,” said said Polanski.

Polanski decided to act. She started Lost Our Home Pet Rescue in 2008 as a resource for realtors who found pets in abandoned homes.

Once word got out, Lost Our Home began getting calls from realtors, neighbors, locksmiths who were being paid to change locks on foreclosed homes, and pet owners who couldn’t afford to. keep their animals after losing their home.

At first, Polanski worked with a small team of volunteers to find solutions to community needs, adjusting the program as needs changed.

“There are so many reasons why people are temporarily unable to care for their pet – they might go to a homeless shelter, hospital, PTSD treatment center or stay with a friend,” Polanski said. “At first we were looking for ways to help people during the foreclosure crisis, but the solutions we found could be extended to so many other difficulties.”

“Help them get back on their feet”

Since 2008, Lost Our Home has helped over 20,000 dogs and cats.

Lost Our Home has partnerships with the Tempe and Mesa Police Departments to rescue pets that have been abandoned. Pet owners who wish to give up their pets can also bring them directly to Lost Our Home for rehoming.

For pet owners who cannot care for their pets due to temporary circumstances such as homelessness, hospitalization, or financial hardship, Lost Our Home also offers temporary care programs.

The program provides 90 days of free care so pet owners can temporarily relocate their pets and then reunite with them after a crisis.

“It’s not a band-aid,” Polanski said. “The idea is that we help them get back on their feet.”

Other services to support pet parents include a low-cost boarding house, a pet food bank, and a partnership with the Sojourner Center so women fleeing domestic violence can seek help. without fear of losing their pet.

“There are too many homeless animals that don’t need to be homeless. They already have families who love them; they might just need some extra help caring for their animals,” Polanski said.

Renovation plans to help more pets

Lost Our Home started with a team of 20 volunteers.

A grant enabled Polanski and one other to quit their jobs in 2010 and focus their efforts on the growth and success of Lost Our Home. Today, Polanski said, 17 staff members and a network of 450 volunteers help people care for their pets.

For the first two years, the shelter operated from small rental spaces.

When he moved to his current space on Hardy Drive in Tempe, many upgrades were needed to make the space suitable for a pet shelter – overhead sprayers, drains, air control systems and plumbing infrastructure appropriate.

At the time, Lost Our Home did all the minimal renovations to move into its new location on short notice. For the past six years, Polanski said everything they did was a temporary fix.

Now the shelter plans to redevelop the space to make it a more permanent home.

The shelter had to adapt quickly to meet the needs of the people (and pets) they helped in their early years, but Polanski said they are now able to take a break and regroup. look to the future.

She said the renovations are a crucial next step in continuing to expand their impact on the community.

“We’ve grown so much over the past six years – we’ve more than doubled the number of animals we’re reaching,” Polanski said. “As it stands, this building does not have the capacity to help animals and keep them healthy.”

The remodel will allow the shelter to serve different purposes in separate spaces. They will add a space to keep sick animals, a room for people who adopt pets, a space for those who drop off their pets for temporary care and a room for the police to drop the animals off 24 hours a day. .

“All of these changes will help make the shelter a happier, healthier place for the animals we’re trying to help,” Polanski said.

Annie Czenszak stands with her dogs, Baloo and Chiquita, outside Lost Our Home Pet Rescue in Tempe, AZ.  Her dogs are part of the shelter's temporary care program.

how to help

Lost Our Home has been raising money for the renovation through its “Home At Last” campaign for more than two years, but steep increases in commercial construction costs over the past two years have forced them to raise their target.

So far, they’ve raised nearly $2 million through donations and grants. However, to reach their new goal, they still need around $400,000.

There are several ways people can help them reach the goal, including donations. One donor has volunteered to match any donation over $100 up to $50,000.

In addition, any donor who donates $250, $500 or $1,000 will receive a gift in return: a personalized brick that will be installed in the path leading the animals and their owners through the shelter.

Besides donations, Polanski said the shelter will also need support in other ways.

During renovations, which are currently scheduled to begin in early May and last through August, Lost Our Home will need people to accommodate pets that would normally be housed at the shelter.

Polanski estimated that about 150 dogs and cats, including 70 kittens, will need temporary shelters during the renovation. Lost Our Home will provide all necessary supplies for host families.

Interested foster parents should complete a short application on the website.

“There are different ways everyone can help out,” Polanski said. “We’re doing this for the community, and we can’t help the community without the community helping us.”

“Eternally grateful”

Czenszak said the support she has received from Lost Our Home for Baloo and Chiquita has been amazing.

“I’m just eternally grateful,” she said. “When I get back on my feet, I want to volunteer to help them like they helped me.”

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