Drastik founder of Helping Homeless Companions.

I am pleased to share that I had a conversation with Drastik over the phone, the founder of Helping Homeless Companions (HHC). During our talk, we discussed the background story of HHC. Drastik shared that the root of this non-profit is to allow people to have easier access to pet support, and this started about 7 years-ago, in Orange County. She explained before HHC came to be, that since high school she would always go to Mary’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen that provided meals to the underprivileged in Orange County. She would donate clothes, books, magazines, and anything she thought could be reused there. She took notice that there were a lot of unhoused individuals living nearby.

As time went on, she started her career working with animals. She realized she could translate this experience into something more, and went back to help the community at Mary’s Kitchen. Drastik spoke to one of the founding members of Mary’s Kitchen, an individual named Gloria, to see if she could offer free grooming services for companion animals on Saturdays to help the community there.

This was a gesture of kindness Gloria couldn’t refuse, and Drastik began her services there. She would see a spectrum of people that would come through Mary’s Kitchen, including families, senior citizens, teenagers, and people struggling. Drastik emphasized that especially during the last 3 years, people have seemed more and more desperate, especially in need of help in maintaining an animal companion. She explained it is emotional to talk about for her, as she knows that some people would literally feed their animal first, and starve themselves. She emphasized that people are struggling, experiencing addiction, facing being unhoused, or living paycheck to paycheck, and get rid of their animal as a result, and end up even more isolated and alone.

Drastik shared that she sees the value in having a fresh and clean blanket as a basic need. As such, she collects blankets, and sweaters as a part of her work, and will distribute them to families in need, especially those who have animal companions. She also collects socks, tarps, sweaters, and other essentials to these families and other unhoused individuals. She also provides fresh water to them too. She has several families and people she is in contact with that she consistently supports with these needs. She explained that as of right now, she is essentially the only person involved in her work. She does the driving, scheduling, and organizing all on her own. With all of this on her plate, she also works at a wildlife center.

Drastik works directly with animals at Wildlife Center, a non-profit in Orange County. It’s located on a wetlands reservation that’s on protected land that spans across Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Huntington Beach. Her job is to work directly with the wildlife (i.e., pelicans, seagulls, possums, squirrels, raccoons) and any injured animal that comes in. If animal control is called out to pick-up a wild animal, they will bring the animal to the center. She explained a lot of people have misinformation about the center, and animal control’s relationship. She wants to clarify that there is indeed a direct relationship between the wildlife center and the local animal patrol. If an injured wild animal is brought in, the center tries to save them, or as a last resort provide euthanization. Drastik shared that beyond her job and her work in HHC, she is also a multifaceted artist. She shared that she is a performer, and that she loves doing so. She is a contortionist, sings, and she does dance, including “go-go” dancing, and acting.

Photo credit @kamerguykev – Kevin Focus

She is currently working on a project, where she is starting a band where she will be the lead singer. She explained the band takes inspiration from her Mexican and hispanic roots, punk rock, grunge, and her life experiences. She hopes people will feel understood by listening to her lyrics. She suggests her goal in life is to be able to create, and to also take care of animals at the same time. She explained that if she can balance a few gigs, perhaps two a month while working full-time with animals, that is what would make her happy.

She shares that she has become self-aware to notice when she is feeling overwhelmed, and that she recognizes that if she gets burned out, she can’t help animals or people. That is her advice and go to answer to others when asked how she balances it all. She will always prioritize her work with animals and the Wildlife Center before her performing. Although, she has been successful in merging the arts with her activism.

Board members of HHC- L/ Jerry, Drastik , and Chase.

She has shown success with organizing shows for fundraising. She shared that she put on a show as a fundraiser two years ago in downtown Santa Ana at the venue Copper Door, where $800 was raised towards HHC. She explained she had to make sure there was clear communication between herself and the bands and vendors that 100% of the money gained at the show would go solely to the non-profit. She shared she knows the owner of the Copper Door, Alvin. He allowed her to generously use the venue for free. She explained she was responsible for handling the door, the vendors, and the flow during the show. Board members of HHC, especially member Chase with his experience with bands, helped to monitor the show, organize set times, and worked with the vendors for support. Without Alvin, Chase, and the vendor’s support, she said she would not have been able to put on the show because there wasn’t a budget available to pay for people to help, a venue, or fundraiser. She hopes she can continue doing this important work.
By Vegan Peace Punk