Wayne Walker, the founder and minister at OurCalling, said they were hoping to launch the capital campaign in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. “Now, as we enter into 2021, it’s really because of COVID that we have to prioritize this,” Walker said. “There’s so many more people becoming homeless and so many people that need housing where housing doesn’t exist.”
Before the pandemic, Walker estimates that his nonprofit saw around 30 new people a week. That number has now soared to some 150.
He said conversations about affordable housing too often revolve around what the unit will look like and how cheap it can be built for. With this project, Walker hopes to focus more on the services they can provide.
Most of the housing in Dallas is meant for people who have a decent level of capacity to maintain themselves, Walker said. But OurCalling wants to create housing to serve more vulnerable homeless populations, like the unsheltered.
The unsheltered homeless often need more than just a roof over their head. Although several different facilities around the world offering services for the homeless, Walker thinks the best models look resemble assisted living.
“They’ve got mental health care needs, they’ve got physical health needs, many of them are elderly,” he said. “Many of them need, really, an assisted living type scenario.”
Ahead of the winter freeze a couple of weeks ago, OurCalling partnered with the city to open the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to house the homeless during the storm.
More than half of the homeless people they served at the convention center were over 50 years old. Many of them were in their 60s, 70s and 80s. When the convention center was closing to the homeless, Walker said there were individuals with missing limbs and people who couldn’t maintain themselves without assistance that had nowhere else to go.
Michael Lavelle Amphy was one of the homeless individuals staying at the convention center during the freeze. At 59 years old, he said his doctor told him he shouldn't work anymore because his heart is in such poor condition.
“They don’t need just a cheap apartment in South Dallas,” Walker said. “They need long term care. They need a forever home.”
The goal is to put OurCalling's services under the same roof so they can serve these needs.
Dallas is in huge need of more affordable housing. The city’s first comprehensive housing policy showed a shortage of some 20,000 affordable homes. In December, the city approved the purchase of two hotels to eventually be used as temporary housing for the homeless. But Walker said people shouldn’t just be looking to the city to end homelessness.
“When we live in a city that needs thousands of beds, the question is not ‘Why isn’t the city doing more?’ The question is ‘Why isn’t everyone participating with this?’” he said. “We need every individual, from those who can buy a single lamp to those who can buy a cul de sac, to be actively involved in supporting projects like this.”
Walker said they can get started on the project as soon as the funds are raised. People can donate here. Additionally, those who want to get more involved in helping the homeless can download the OurCalling app.