Rochester rallies around homeless man to find temporary shelter for his cat and dog

Rochester community rallies to help man’s pets find shelter

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(ABC 6 News) – UPDATE: Chico and Calico were placed with Rochester Camp Companion foster homes, according to the nonprofit.


(ABC 6 News) – Homelessness has been a pressing issue in Rochester for years. City leaders have worked on some solutions, but also passed a camping ban for people on public property. And for those people living it day in and day out, it’s a struggle.

Tuesday night was brutally cold, and 61-year-old Don Russell was looking for a warm place to stay.

“God blessed me. He gave me both those animals to take care of,” said Russell.

Chico and Calico are Russell’s inseparable dog and cat that sleep next to their owner, Russell, every night.

For the last few months, that’s been at a hotel. But now Russell can no longer afford the hotel and he needed to find a place to sleep. He found space at a shelter, but most shelters can’t take in animals.

“It was very stressful and it took many hours. But, hey, everything worked out because the folks here helped me a lot,” he said.

Jennifer Schimek is a fellow dog owner and volunteers her time with Netty’s Pet Service.

She was contacted by volunteers at The Landing on Tuesday about Don’s situation. Without hesitation, she flooded every channel she could to help don out.

“We couldn’t get a hold of Paws and Claws, we couldn’t, or they were full, Companion was full, Rochester Animal Control was closed. So, I went to the Landing to see what the status was of the animals and when I had got there a volunteer of the shelter said they had found a person,” Schimek said.

And after turning over every stone, a sense of relief came over both Schimek and Russell.

Chico and Calico were taken in by two foster homes with the assistance of Camp Companion, a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless animals find a place to lay their heads.

“It’s sad. It’s really sad that people live like one pay check away from homelessness,” said Schimek. “I felt like really, really good about that. I know Don was really happy. I called The Landing today and talked to Don and he told me that he really appreciated all the effort.”

And Russell couldn’t be more grateful for a community that has helped him when he needed it most.

“Thanks to the community of Rochester my pets now have a safe home for a few days,” he said.

Russell will reunite with Chico and Calico within the next week. But this is an issue many people are facing, as they struggle to find a place to sleep at night.

Schimek says there are several nonprofits, and people, including Paws and Claws and Netty’s Pet Service that are always ready to step in and help.