CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new facility is bringing animal care to an underserved community of pet owners on Chicago's South Side.
PAWS Chicago officially opened an animal outreach center in the Englewood neighborhood on Thursday.
Local pet owners will now have nearby help to care for their four-legged friends.
Englewood resident Lauren Providence said that it's been difficult to care for her dog without any veterinarians or pet services nearby. Providence took in Miracle, a terrier mix stray, a few years ago.
"I had difficulty managing Miracle basically as far as her grooming and food," Providence said.
But that changed on Thursday with the official opening of PAWS Chicago's Englewood Outreach Center.
"We now have an official home here in Englewood," said Paula Fasseas, founder of PAWS Chicago.
The center is located in the basement of the St. Stephen's Lutheran Church near 65th and Halsted, with money donated by a local charity.
"We're so glad to be a part of them because we are working as partners, not enemies in our community," said Pastor Henry Raven.
"These are things that stabilize communities and bring people together, teach us that we're not as different from one another," said Michael Hennessy of the Coleman Foundation.
The opening comes some five years after the city's largest no-kill shelter began a door-to-door campaign in the South Side neighborhood, which has one of the higher incidence of homeless pets.
"About 89% of litters are accidental," said Laurie Maxwell, PAWS Chicago's outreach director. "When we started coming into Englewood, 95% of the pets that we met were not spay or neutered."
The new center will offer pet exams along with grooming, training classes and a pet food pantry, all for free.
There's also a mobile unit that will provide a number of services, including spay and neutering procedures.
Ald. Stephanie Coleman of the 16th Ward said the center is a sign of change in the underserved community.
"This will provide the data. This will provide tangible proof that there is a demographic, there is a consumer base," Coleman said.
For Alicia Mendoza, an Englewood resident and cat lover, the center is simply a way of helping the pets and people who make up the community.
"I love them," Mendoza said. "They make us so very happy."
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