OurCalling - Cases - First Liberty

Valued Partner

According to the City of Dallas, “Homelessness affects the entire Dallas community, not just the persons who experience homelessness over the course of the year. More than 300,000 Dallas residents live in poverty and almost 600,000 live in housing distressed households. Of the 2,000 beds in Dallas shelters, the majority are full every night.”  This year, because of COVID-19 limitations, Dallas shelters are hundreds of beds short.

OurCalling partners closely with the Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions (“OHS”), as well as healthcare providers and other charities, including the North Texas Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, the Bridge, the Stewpot, and others, to provide services to the homeless. During the historic February 2021 snowstorm, OurCalling staffed the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, providing shelter to over 1000 people.

Although OurCalling is not a shelter, it will stay open 24 hours if necessary as a last resort during emergencies, so homeless individuals can stay safe when shelter space runs out. During the 2020–21 winter, OurCalling cooperated with OHS to coordinate emergency shelter intake. Homeless individuals in need of emergency shelter came to OurCalling, where OHS personnel arranged shelter and hotel accommodations, as well as transportation. Once the City’s budget for hotel accommodations ran out, OurCalling and other charities pooled their resources to provide additional hotel rooms. Once those funds were exhausted, OurCalling remained open through the night as a last resort. It did not provide beds; it simply extended its hours and continued its normal operations to prevent the homeless who couldn’t be housed from freezing.

Buffer and Suffer?

Dallas ticketed OurCalling in 2018 for keeping its doors open. Then, late last year, Dallas created a permitting program to allow churches like OurCalling to provide temporary shelter in inclement weather, but a downtown buffer zone excludes OurCalling from participating.  As a result, OurCalling operates with the continued threat of receiving a ticket under an ordinance that could prevent it from fulfilling its mission.

In April, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the City of Dallas informing officials that preventing OurCalling from fulfilling its mission is a violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  In last August, the City of Dallas agreed that OurCalling may continue to stay open 24 hours when necessary during emergencies, such as freezing weather, so homeless individuals can stay safe when shelter space runs out.

“OurCalling is thrilled that it can continue to fulfill its calling to help people experiencing homelessness,” said Lea Patterson, Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We commend the City for doing the right thing.”

Pastor Wayne Walker, OurCalling’s Executive Director said, “We are deeply grateful to the city for our long partnership and are truly blessed to be able to continue to help those in desperate need.”

News Release
For Immediate Release: 8.24.21
Contact: Lacey McNiel, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

City of Dallas Removes Roadblock to OurCalling, Local Church Ministering to Homeless
City’s corrected interpretation of ordinance will allow OurCalling to continue fulfilling its mission during emergencies.

Dallas, TX—First Liberty Institute announced today that the City of Dallas has agreed that OurCalling, a local church and homeless ministry, may continue to stay open 24 hours when necessary during emergencies, such as freezing weather, so homeless individuals can stay safe when shelter space runs out.  In April, First Liberty sent a letter to city officials explaining that the city’s interpretation of an ordinance violated the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“TRFRA”) by preventing OurCalling from staying open.

“OurCalling is thrilled that it can continue to fulfill its calling to help people experiencing homelessness,” said Lea Patterson, Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “We commend the City for doing the right thing.”

Pastor Wayne Walker, OurCalling’s Executive Director said, “We are deeply grateful to the city for our long partnership and are truly blessed to be able to continue to help those in desperate need.”

OurCalling is a church and nonprofit ministry in Dallas that provides various homeless services. OurCalling partners closely with the Dallas Office of Homeless Solutions (“OHS”), as well as healthcare providers and other charities, including the North Texas Food Bank, the Salvation Army, Union Gospel Mission, the Bridge, the Stewpot, Family Gateway, and many others. During the historic February 2021 snowstorm, OurCalling staffed the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, partnering with other organizations by providing shelter to over 1000 people.

According to the City of Dallas, “Homelessness affects the entire Dallas community, not just the persons who experience homelessness over the course of the year. More than 300,000 Dallas residents live in poverty and almost 600,000 live in housing distressed households. Of the 2,000 beds in Dallas shelters, the majority are full every night.”  This year, because of COVID-19 limitations, Dallas shelters are hundreds of beds short.

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About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Lacey McNiel at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.


News Release – 4.8.21

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