Group gives pizza, basics, touch of humanity to Detroit's homeless

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Terry Moody sat on the corner of Monroe and Chrysler Service Drive, wearing sweat pants, a long-johns shirt, a thin gray blanket over his shoulders and no gloves, holding a sign that said "Homeless and hungry."

It was half true. 

Moody, 19, has a home, on Detroit's east side, and a mother there who hasn't seen him in months since he left for college in Kentucky.

Sara Nasser, 26, of Dearborn gives a pizza to an unidentified man in the Greektown neighborhood of Detroit on Jan. 5, 2020

What he doesn't want her to know is that he was kicked out of school for fighting, and spends his nights either at a nearby shelter or sleeping under an overpass on Interstate 75.

He doesn't want to break the news that would "break her heart," that his college days are over after one semester, that he's back home with no job, no plan, no support, and has been for weeks. She thinks he loved college so much that he passed on coming home for Christmas break.

"I just got dropped off at the crib, and ran before she came home," Moody said. "I'm on the run, basically. I can't see that face of disappointment."

Aamna Hafeez, 26, of Detroit, Nassrine Naim, 24, of Dearborn, and Zainab Hammoud, 26, of Dearborn push a cart full of items as volunteers from 1Humanity give out food, socks, jackets and other clothing to people in need in Detroit on Jan. 5, 2020.

Early Sunday afternoon, Moody was alarmed to see a long line of humanity headed his way. He thought it was protesters, and their presence would either draw police or the attention of security guards in the area, both of which would result in the same outcome: being shooed off the corner that's become his source of sustenance.

What the group offered instead was a helping hand. Several, actually. 

A woman from the group, Sara Nasser, 26, of Dearborn, quietly dropped off at his side a care bag of bare necessities essentials —  toothbrushes and toothpaste, a first aid kit, soap, and gloves — that friend Yasmin Mallah, 26, of Dearborn Heights had assembled. Mallah had built about 150 care packages, dropping them off at area shelters and on the streets when encountering people in need. She had 38 left to hand out Sunday. 

Nabeel Shahzad, left, 31, of Canton and Asim Ghani, 22, of Sterling Heights give out bags of clothing and blankets as volunteers from 1Humanity give out food, socks, jackets and other clothing to people in need in Detroit on Jan. 5, 2020

Another woman handed him a small Jet's Pizza, with halal pepperoni. Another, a white-and-gray hoodie soon marked with pizza stains. 

Moody's helping hand came courtesy of a group called 1Humanity, which is in its fifth year of handing out help to people who need it in downtown Detroit, often on a cold, January day, after the holiday spirit has come and gone.

Moody's time outdoors has come during unseasonable warmth in Detroit. The average temperature in December was 35.1 degrees, 5 degrees above the average for December in Detroit. But January is not expected to be as warm, meteorologists say. Since 2000, the average temperature in January in Detroit is  25.6 degrees. It is the coldest month of the year.

Mother Nature brought him closer than he's been to Mother Moody in months on New Year's Eve. Moody went inside the Greektown Casino, called home, but hung up before anyone answered. What he fears more than the cold is that a family member will see him and his story will unravel, and his mom will learn that not only is he not in school, he didn't call at his moment of need, either.

Sara Dervishi, 25, of Detroit leaves a pizza and a bag of clothing with a person lying on the sidewalk as volunteers from 1 Humanity Drive give out food, socks, jackets and other clothing to people in need in Detroit on Jan. 5, 2020.

The pizza will help. The socks, blankets and hoodie, too. But none can remove the anxiety that the next car headed east on Monroe will belong to his mother, and he'll have some explaining to do.

2019:Pizza, clothes bring warmth to Detroit homeless

Ali Bazzi, 26, of Dearborn helps organize the annual effort. Before the group got moving, he offered instruction to a small group of volunteers.

"I want us to be proactive and try to talk to people, meet people," Bazzi said. "This is as much for the volunteers as the people we'll meet. I want them to really understand that we are one in the same. We do have our similarities. We all have our own struggle that we need to overcome."

One thing not to do, Bazzi said: give money. Volunteers sometimes feel moved to do so. The focus is on giving people the supplies they need.

Ali Bazzi, 26, of Dearborn, left, tries to comfort a man who apologized after Bazzi after traded shoes with him. Bazzi says, "I don't know how he was walking around in those. I have more shoes at home."

According to the Homeless Action Network of Detroit's 2018 State of Homelessness Report, more than 10,700 people in Detroit experienced homelessness at some point that year, with more than 2,200 people chronically homeless. Two-thirds are men and 88% are black. Their average age: 36. 

Davonna Greene, 53, sat inside the Starbucks opposite Campus Martius, waiting for the right time to start moving north on Woodward. 

As she sipped her drink, dozens of 1Humanity volunteers assembled outside the coffee shop, many of them carrying bags, several pulling shopping carts, all eager to give what they had to anyone who seemed to need help.

Before the group could get moving to the east side of downtown, several people approached.

Greene was among them, and left with not only a pizza, but a blue blanket and a bag of socks and other winter essentials. 

"I think it's nice to do work for others; I had to do that myself, but now I'm in a different kind of transitional phase in my life," Greene said. "I've got family here. But there's nothing like having your own."