Tamika Perry is the CEO of Dallas Hope Charities. Photo: Tamika Perry

Dallas Hope Charities first opened its East Dallas home for LGBTQ+ young adults ages 18 to 24 in 2018. But when Tamika Perry became CEO of the organization three years ago, she knew the house had foundation problems.

Then the big freeze hit Dallas two years ago and pipes burst, resulting in all sorts of damage to the house.

U.S. Bank came to the rescue last October, renovating the entire house. They gutted the bathrooms and the kitchen. They had new floors installed, replaced damaged walls and had the foundation replaced.

U.S. Bank brought in MCS, the construction company that worked on the foundation and other problems with the house. And they brought in Shinescape, the company that landscaped the property.

Perry said Shinescape installed sod where grass hadn’t grown in years and replaced all the shrubbery except for one row across the back of the lot.

While construction was going on, the bank even paid for an Airbnb for the residents so construction could proceed.

At about the same time, Mercedes stepped up and brought the nonprofit Dwell with Dignity into the mix. Perry said she got a call from an executive with Dwell who told her to just get rid of all the old stuff. Everything inside the house needed to go, they said.

Then Dwell with Dignity, with funding from Mercedes, provided new furniture, rugs, art and plants. In the kitchen, they replaced all the pots and pans, plates and utensils. They provided two washers and dryers in the laundry room, desktop computers in the computer room and a new fridge and dishwasher for the kitchen.

Outside, they installed seating on the newly covered patio.

And along the way, Perry met jeweler and philanthropist Joe Pacetti, who’s been a generous donor and fundraiser and has introduced her to other donors, as well.

The project took six months to complete at virtually no cost to Dallas Hope Charities. But none of it would have happened if Perry had not made the right connections with the right organizations.

DHC’s goals

Dallas Hope Charities allows LGBTQ+ youth to stay in the eight-person facility for up to a year, Perry explained. During that time, they are in school or working as well as taking Dallas Hope Charities life-skills course.

That course includes instructions on how to open and maintain a bank account, how to look for a job, how to cook and clean and even how to make a bed. The life skills course also includes classes on how to have their utilities turned on and how to maintain a monthly budget, all of which comes into play at the end of their year with DHC when volunteers step up to help them find their own homes.

Most of the youth who come to DHC have been kicked out of their homes either when they turned 18 or even before. Some have aged out of the foster system. What they have in common is a lack of life experience normally taught by parents.

Perry keeps in touch with most of the youth who’s been through the program. She beamed with pride talking about one young man who had been disowned when he came out but was able to finish college while living at DHC’s house. He began working at a hotel in Fort Worth and is now on the hotel’s management team.

Another resident was going through flight attendant training when she was kicked out of her house. At DHC, she finished her training and now works for the airline out of its Chicago base.

U.S. Bank not only provided the funds and partners to renovate the house, they also offer internships to some DHC residents who are learning to be loan officers and to take on other administrative positions with the company.

A career built on service

Perry has been doing housing and foster care for 23 years. She grew up in St. Louis and earned her master’s degree in nonprofit management.

Opening a housing program for homeless LGBTQ+ youth was her dream. After moving from Chicago to Dallas, Perry was working at Highland Park United Methodist Church when she started volunteering at DHC, soon after, she was hired by the organization. Then two weeks after she was hired, the executive director abruptly quit and she was named the new CEO.

Perry said she speaks to LGBTQ+ youth from all over the country who are looking for a place to live. The waiting list to get into the DHC program currently includes about 350 names.

Perry said her goal is to keep expanding DHC’s reach and its capacity, she wants to institute a street outreach program and, of course, she wants DHC to open a second home to double the number of youth her organization can accommodate.

David Taffet is a senior staff writer at Dallas Voice. www.dallasvoice.com