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Pandemic Alters Thanksgiving Day Plans at Nonprofit Serving Homeless in Dallas

NBC Dallas logo NBC Dallas 11/25/2020 Deborah Ferguson
a group of people standing in front of a crowd © Provided by NBC Dallas

For the first time in years, a nonprofit that helps the homeless in Dallas will not serve a meal on Thanksgiving Day. The coronavirus pandemic has altered plans.

They come to OurCalling near downtown Dallas because they've been here before or because they don't where else to go.

The pandemic is bringing more clients to the doors of the nonprofit.

"When you've lost your house, and you've lost a place to sleep. One of the biggest places you'll feel it is in your stomach. Obviously, hunger is a huge deal. Look behind us, there's lines of people. Cars that pull up with people experiencing homelessness and hunger for the first time," said Wayne Walker, the executive director and pastor at OurCalling.

More clients requires more money, more services, more volunteers; all of which brings new challenges.

"COVID has not only forced us to work without many volunteers, it's also created a huge shortage in food and giving," Walker said.

Meals were moved outside to comply with COVID-19 protocols. The meal on Thanksgiving day usually draws more than a thousand homeless. It won't happen this year. Walker says what he calls "the drive-by philanthropy" that comes on the holiday will bring too much risk.

"There's gonna be so many people driving around and passing stuff out of their cars, that it actually creates more of an exposure from someone who could possibly have COVID, and be bringing that and delivering that with a meal at their car window," he said.

Walker has more than two decades experience helping the homeless.

Through food and shelter, the hope is that clients find something more.

"They made sure I ate. I had somewhere to sleep. Clean clothes and a shower, clean body. They were helping more ways than one. And those bible studies help as well. More than we care to acknowledge," said Fahdel Scriven.

Screvin moved to Dallas eight years ago with a friend.

"Things didn't go right. He went away. Got stuck here down here. I found OurCalling and I've been here since." she said as she described her life back then.

Now she helps those in need in her job as the nonprofit's assistant warehouse manager. She's been on staff at OurCalling for six years.

"OurCalling is the best, and that's just not because I'm saying it, I'm living it,' she said.

"Being able to meet someone's hunger need builds an opportunity to have a conversation to help get them off the street," Walker said. "We encourage your continued support as we try to put food in bellies and people in beds,"

OurCalling will open again on Monday with COVID testing, meals and other services available.

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