Lori Weise, a CSUDH student, founded Dogtown Dog Rescue on Los Angeles’ Skid Row in 1996. Photo courtesy of Lori Weise
By Albert Ledezma
Downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row may seem far from the California State University, Dominguez Hills campus, but for one student it is very close to her heart.
Lori Weise, co-founder of Downtown Dog Rescue, located in downtown Los Angeles, began the organization 20 years ago from the back of a furniture company, Modernica Inc.
DDR exists to help the vast homeless population of Skid Row by taking care of their pets and trying to turn their owners’ lives around. Wiese started the organization after being shocked by the number of homeless people with pets while she was driving to her job. Her love for animals and advocacy led to the creation of DDR.
According to a report published by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in July 2017, there were 4,664 individuals either living in shelters or on the streets in Skid Row, a roughly 50-block area in downtown, which is east of the historic downtown core and Bunker Hill. For the entire city of Los Angeles, the total homeless population was slightly more than 34,000.
In the spring of 2017, Weise started attending CSUDH to receive a Drug and Alcohol Counseling certification through the College of Extended Learning and International Education. She hasn’t attended school since 1998, when she graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in child development.
“This was kind of scary to not go to school [after] so many years and I’m going to be 53 [years old] and I thought ‘maybe I’m too old,’” Weise said.
But accepting challenges is not new to her. She has been unofficially counseling people living on the streets of Skid Row through of her nonprofit organization. She realized that more education is needed to help her continue her work by fortifying herself mentally and physically after watching many people get “swallowed” by the realities of this line of work, she said.
“Really good people get burnout and then they quit,” said Wiese. “And they did amazing work, but the work wasn’t finished because mentally, they just can’t handle it. But I think with getting the certificate, it’s preparing [me] for those mental challenges that I know I face and will continue to face.”
Weise hopes to, after receiving her certification, embark on a new career by becoming a full-time counselor. She wants to work for a large nonprofit organization for a couple of years to learn what it is like and then expand her own organization.
DDR is currently in the process of looking for a small office space on Skid Row where it can start a recovery program for people. In the meantime, it operates the Pet Resource Center on Skid Row where they offer assistance to the homeless and very low-income pet owners who are living on the streets by providing treatments for their animals. The center is also designed to help homeless people get into contact with social workers and case managers.
As their pet’s needs are being taken care of, people with their own medical, mental health and addiction issues are also being assisted, something Weise wants to continue upon and expand.
“Getting this certification is hopefully going to enable me one day, very soon, to be a leader of a program that will help people,” Weise said.
DDR’s Pet Resource Center is currently working with two students from California State University, Northridge who are working towards their master’s degree in social work. Weise is always open to students who are pursuing a degree in social work, she said.
DDR also needs graphic artists to make flyers and other artistic-related projects, photographers to help take photos for fundraisers, along with volunteers and counselors.
If you are interested or want more information, visit downtowndogrescue.org or email Weise at firstname.lastname@example.org.