A local nonprofit is raising awareness of the dire issues homeless services are facing during the pandemic.
According to OurCalling, the Dallas homeless population is growing at a faster rate than 95% of the country. The situation has been made worse by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
“One of the things we’ve noticed is not only more people showing up at our door but more cars are pulling up with families living in them," said Wayne Walker, founder and CEO of OurCalling. "A car pulls up and we think that they’re here to volunteer and it turns out they just lost their house. There’s been a lot of evictions going on."
And although there is a national and local stay on evictions, that doesn't mean the rules are being followed by everyone.
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"People who are living in motels, living in a trailer park, group home or even some kind of lower level income environments -- people have been pushing individuals out on the street and so they are experiencing homelessness for the first time," Walker said.
OurCalling, located south of Downtown Dallas, serves the homeless through feedings, showers, and laundry services. Beyond that, the center also has private counseling rooms, classrooms, a worship center and a space for training and education to help individuals to exit homelessness and abusive situations.
Since the pandemic started, Walker said they’ve seen a 20% growth month after month on the number of people that have come to them for services. However, homeless services across the city have scaled back drastically.
“One of the most significant ways it’s affected them is many of our service provider partners have kind of gone to a complete lockdown mode. So if you just became homeless today, there’s not many places that will let you in the door," Walker explained. “Our most vulnerable, our homeless friends have not been able to escape the reality of COVID."
OurCalling, along with several other downtown organizations like The Bridge and SoupMobile Church have remained open to the homeless throughout the entire pandemic. The way they serve has changed drastically, with strict safety precautions and protocols put forth by the city.
At the same time, resources for these organizations to feed, clothe and help families are dwindling. With restaurants closing and grocery stores focusing on keeping supplies for consumers, food streams disappear. Donors don't have the money to give like they used to.
“Those dominoes start falling piece by piece. So it’s not just that people show up at our door experiencing homelessness, but nonprofits throughout the area and throughout the country are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills? How do we continue to do the mission of taking care of folks and getting them off the streets when funding is down and donors disappear?" Walker said.
Many nonprofit organizations rely on yearly fundraisers as a significant source of funding to keep them going throughout the year. The pandemic has unfortunately caused many of these events to be canceled.
However, some are turning to alternatives methods. For example, OurCalling has converted its annual fundraiser into a drive-thru event on Thursday evening.
The public is invited to the drive-thru campaign from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. held in OurCalling's parking lot, located at 1702 S. Cesar Chavez Blvd.
The event is a no-contact, 20-minute, interactive drive-thru experience to share the impact OurCalling has had on the unsheltered homeless population. It features several stations where people can learn from how their network of volunteers and partners are making a difference in the city, especially during the pandemic.
Tickets are $30 per person and include a to-go meal. Participants can choose a 20-minute time slot between the time frame.
Click here for more details.