(The Dallas Examiner) – Every day, thousands of individuals in North Texas go without shelter food and essential items. Living under these conditions can affect a person’s dignity and self-esteem.
To offer a place of refuge, Dorcas Heart, a nonprofit organization that supports the underserved in Dallas and Collin Counties, provides essential supplies to unsheltered individuals on the last Saturday of the month. Items include hygiene products, bedding and food, as well as free haircuts.
The organization was founded in 2019 by Mena Enaohwo, a licensed attorney. She was born in the United States but raised in Nigeria where she experienced the hardships of poverty.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I experienced and was exposed to poverty and so I always wanted opportunities to be able to help people with similar backgrounds,” she said.
She recalled her humble beginnings. At first, her father was able to offer her family a comfortable life. Later, that spiraled down.
“I remember as a child that sometimes our family had to skip meals because we did not have enough to eat,” she said.
There were also schools in Nigeria that she couldn’t attend because her parents could not afford the tuition.
“When I returned to the U.S. to attend graduate school in California, I understood firsthand what it meant to not have a stable house and to not know where your next meal will come from. I am also a Christian and every time I serve in the church, I do what I can to help serve the homeless.”
Enaohwo explained that her organization is named after the female character in the Bible named Dorcas, who spent her life helping those who were less fortunate, as well as other good works and acts of love.
The organization serves homeless people at the end of each month at select locations in downtown Dallas. They started by serving brown bag lunches and then expanded to offering other items such as hygiene kits and sleeping bags.
Enaohwo said their vision has been to prevent humiliation, restore hope and human dignity by providing the basic needs of homeless and underserved individuals, both sheltered and unsheltered.
“We do this by providing some necessities to live, such as a warm blanket, a sleeping bag, toothbrush, soap and some food,” she stated. “This not only brings the basics to survive, but it provides hope for another day and for the homeless, deprived individuals and families to ensure they are clean, warm, dry and well.”
Currently, the Dallas County homeless population sits at 4,100 people, with a third of those unsheltered. She compared the poverty situation in cities like Dallas to third world countries.
“I think it would be fair to compare using Nigeria to Dallas and it’s significantly different in third world countries in Africa,” she said. “There is a severe and fine difference in California because I was just migrating to California and like I said, I was experiencing homelessness, trying to find stable housing and I had to stay with a friend who let me sleep on her couch and just worried about where my next meal was coming from.
“But I think homelessness is consistent across the board because it takes away from your pride and human dignity. And so when you think of someone that is just providing them with a meal, or blankets to help them or hygiene items that will help them feel better, it just helps them restore their dignity for another day, it just gives them confidence that if I have to talk to someone, I can have a fresh breath. How do we make a difference in the lives of people that lost hope? That feeling is consistent across the globe regardless of location.”
Studies show that some causes of homelessness include mental health issues, criminal history choices, a loss of a job or income or lack of family support.
“There are multiple causes of homelessness.,” Enaohwo said. “The economy obviously is there like I said, mental health issues. Some are intentional choices that people have made to be homeless. That we can help them to get up and get out of the street. We seek to restore the confidence of people.”
The nonprofit also provides counseling services and referrals to social service agencies that can help them beyond the immediate assistance they provide initially.
“Currently, we are funded by donations and by individuals reaching out and providing us with donations,” she said. “We’re hoping that we can get grants because the need has increased. We started out serving 25 people monthly, and right now we serve an average of 200 people. So the need definitely is increasing. But we’re self-funded. And so we look to organizations or individuals to provide us with the support that we need, whether it’s resources, whether it’s in kind donations or cash donations. That’s how we survive being able to serve these people.”
In all, the nonprofit has served over 3,500 people in Dallas and Collin County. Currently, it has no full-time staff. It functions through the service of volunteers and is always in need of more volunteers.
Enaohwo is married and has three children who help with Dorcas Heart’s mission.
“I would say come out and see how you can help support people because the need is growing,” she said. “We don’t judge anyone but we’re just saying this is how we can help put a smile on someone’s face. This is how we can help restore hope and confidence in people. It is rewarding and we can give back to our community and like I always say, together we can make an impact by doing good. So if you have some time to spare, and let’s restore hope together, put a smile on someone’s face together.”
Enaohwo said more information about events can be found on their Facebook page, that carries the organization’s name.