‘Pizza and Chicken Lady’ feeds Detroit homeless weekly for over 4 years

Photo courtesy of Nahid Ayoub Nahid Ayoub (left) with a homeless man at a Detroit feeding session near Masonic Temple in summer 2014.

Photo courtesy of Nahid Ayoub
Nahid Ayoub (left) with a homeless man at a Detroit feeding session near Masonic Temple in summer 2014.

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — For one Dearborn resident, the call to leave her six-figure job and commit to feeding the homeless in Detroit came in 2012 and she hasn’t looked back.

Nahid Ayoub has dedicated the last four years to providing food to homeless men, women and children in Detroit through her organization Project Dignity Outreach.

She explained how one encounter with a homeless U.S. veteran opened her eyes to giving back.

“I was working in advertising with a Detroit newspaper company where a homeless veteran would always sit on a corner on my way home,” she said. “One day he said something to me and I followed him and that’s where my journey began.”

Ayoub said she asked the man why he shouted at her and he asked her why she never acknowledged him and she stated she “didn’t see him on the street.”

The man went on to tell her that that’s the issue.

“We’re invisible to people,” he said, and he removed newspapers off his lap to show that he had no legs.

From that day on, the homeless veteran was the only thing she could think about, so she left her job to make feeding other homeless in Detroit her way of life.

“I felt empty,” Ayoub said. “One day in 2012, my friend invited me to a feeding and when I saw how long the line was I knew I had to get involved.”

Starting that next Sunday in 2012 to now in 2017 she hasn’t missed a Sunday to feed the homeless in Detroit near Masonic Temple, 500 Temple.

Her feedings began with her funding them weekly at $300 to $400 from her own pocket or from the help of friends, board members and local businesses.

Habib’s Cuisine, Super Greenland, HYPE Athletics and Lava Lounge have contributed food along with Ayoub’s own home cooking, which she delivers weekly.

“I got addicted to feeding them,” she said. “As I started posting photos and messages on social media, the awareness spread and it has become bigger. I have been able to grow by volunteer database.”

Ayoub takes pride in not only providing food to the homeless in Detroit, but also getting to know their stories.

“I don’t just feed them and leave,” she said. “I love talking with them, hugging them. I know all their names. They are my family and I love them.”

She recalled the reactions of the 300 to 500 homeless in Detroit she serves weekly when she arrives with food.

“They’re already in line when I arrive and they call me ‘The Pizza and Chicken Lady,’” Ayoub said. “What amazes me is that the homeless also become volunteers and love the serve the food alongside others.”

Over the years of hosting the feedings, Ayoub has given back to the homeless, but she sites what they have taught her is just as important.

“I have learned so much from them because I go to the feedings with an open ming and heart,” she said. “They taught me to be humble, simplicity and compassion.”

Along with the weekly Sunday feedings, Ayoub also celebrates holidays with the homeless, including Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“We were able to provide 2,000 turkeys and side dishes for Thanksgiving from HYPE and Habib’s Cuisine every year,” she said. “On Christmas we raised $2,200 and were able to purchase gifts for the children along with the food.”

Ayoub has future plans to expand Project Dignity Outreach with the creation of a shelter and medical clinic for homeless women and children. A relative, who is also a doctor, will provide free healthcare.

Other services planned at the future shelter include job training and earning a high school equivalency diploma through classes.

For more information on Project Dignity Outreach and volunteering, go to projectdignitymi.org.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)