Published on January 28, 2021 at 3:04pm.
Story by Parker Johnson. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Homelessness is a problem that affects every community and Dallas is no exception. Currently, Dallas has the highest homelessness rate in Texas. According to the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, in 2019, Dallas had a recorded homeless population of 3,700 people. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to increase the homeless population in Dallas drastically.
Wayne Walker, driven by undying faith and determination to help his community, founded OurCalling, a Dallas nonprofit that provides resources and education to the local homeless population. With practical and strategic assistance Wayne Walker and his team hope to spread love and offer restoration to those in need.
Growing up, Wayne learned firsthand how to care for those that needed help. “I grew up in East Texas, and my mom and dad became foster parents when I was a kid,” he says. “Growing up, we had about 67 kids in and out of our home. Lots and lots of these kids lived through homelessness, abuse, and neglect. I have been a big brother to homeless men, women, and children most of my life.”
Like many young adults, Wayne struggled to find his calling. Through personal struggles, Wayne found the strength through God to find his purpose. “Like a lot of people, I did a lot of stupid things growing up,” Wayne says. “I became an addict. I tried to kill myself. You know, I just about destroyed myself and everyone around me. There was an absolute moment of clarity where I came to acknowledge my life was out of control. When God put me back together, I recognized what I wanted to do. There was a part of my life when I was a software developer—through high school and college. I taught myself how to code to pay for college. But I got sick and tired of that and wanted to work not on the next version of an app but the next version of a person.”
In 2009, Wayne Walker and his wife Carolyn founded OurCalling. “I met my wife in college, and we really just decided we wanted to go into full-time ministry,” he says. “We didn’t know where or what we would do. Initially, we were going to go overseas, but we just fell in love with the people here in Dallas, especially the people living through homelessness. At the time, I would say there weren’t any resources at all for homeless people, especially those that were not living in shelters. Unsheltered homeless people represent 80% of the homeless population in Dallas. The Word led us to be actively involved with people restoring broken lives.”
Now, after eleven years, OurCalling is a beacon for thousands of people needing guidance and comfort. Wayne and his team aim to tackle the core of homelessness to provide the best life for those seeking help. “We focus on the exit strategies of homelessness every day,” he says.
Helping someone who is experiencing homelessness is never straightforward, but the team at OurCalling provides many resources and services designed to help educate and guide individuals to the right path. “OurCalling is an outreach center; we call it a discipleship center,” Wayne explains. “People come during the day to figure out what they are going to do that night or for the rest of their lives. We do take care of a few basic needs like food, showers, and laundry. We have doctors here and mental health providers. People can sign up for housing, and we can help them get into shelters. We also have a variety of classes like addiction recovery, bible studies, and church services. You know, come here to change your clothes but stick around to change your life. These people’s greatest need is not a change of clothes or a shower. Their greatest need is stable housing and a stable relationship with a healthy community.”
OurCalling does not just focus its efforts in the Dallas community. Their app, which features a map of service providers for people experiencing poverty, has allowed thousands of people all over the country to find shelters or other resources they need. Wayne says, “in April, our app was delivering around 1,500 referrals a day across the country. In January, our app is almost delivering 55,000 referrals a day. People in the app saying ‘where can I eat today? I am living in the car with my two-year-old— where is the closest shelter?’ The use of the app is growing by the day.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting every corner of society, and nonprofits like OurCalling are not immune. Over the past year, Wayne and his team had to face many challenges. “One thing that has been significant to us is our loss of volunteers,” he says. “In 2019, we had nearly 4,000 unique volunteers. In 2020, we had about 400 volunteers. You imagine the loss of manpower while the number of people coming to our door continues to grow. If you take any business or organization and you increase their activity but decrease the manpower, it obviously creates a delta that is hard to overcome.”
Nonprofits like OurCalling are essential to local communities because they provide guidance, resources, and faith to those in need. If you are interested in helping give back to the homeless community while strengthening your faith and the faith of those around you, OurCalling has many opportunities. You can donate money to help pay for food and other essential items. OurCalling also provides many volunteer opportunities that will allow you to participate in the community.