Published December 15, 2021 at 6:39pm.
Story and photo essay by Don Tortellini.
We invited Dallas photographer, Don Tortellini, to present his photo essay on homelessness: the faces of Dallas. Don spends time with the homeless and has become a trusted friend to many. The following story and captions are Don’s words from his personal interviews with each participant.
Imagine being in an unfamiliar place, sleeping next to unfamiliar people, showering in close proximity, and lucky to even be selected into a shelter. This is the harsh reality for thousands of people in the Dallas Metroplex that constantly are floating around the city due to homelessness. There are so many different parameters that can cause a person to become homeless, whether it’s been bad decisions that have caused them to become incarcerated or bad relationships with shelters or just not knowing what services are available to help them altogether. Many ex-felons are denied housing upon release from prison which leaves them with nowhere to go. Constantly roaming the streets with no family or place to go is susceptible for a possibility of reoffending. Shelters have different practices and policies and, depending on their background, the shelter might not even be an option for that person.
Imagine just wandering the streets every day not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. Not knowing where you’re going to sleep, thinking of all the dangers that come from sleeping outside. Imagine once you’re finally settled and you find a place to lay down, you’re met with roaches and rats running around you, not able to comfortably sleep. Hearing cars driving over the freeway throughout the night makes the sound impossible for you to fall asleep. You wake up at the crack of dawn every morning not able to do the bare minimum of washing your face or using the restroom. These are some of the harsh realities that the homeless community faces on a day-to-day basis that a lot of people don’t realize. According to the Dallas City Hall website there are over 300,000 residents who live in poverty and only 2,000 beds city wide available nightly.
Have you ever thought to yourself how close you are or how far you are from being homeless and how many paychecks you are away from being on the streets? Or maybe have you thought about how many family members you have as a safety net to save you from being homeless? These are the kinds of conversations that I was having in the streets with these people. Some people lost their jobs and exhausted all of their savings and ended up being evicted from their apartments and ended up in the streets. Some of these people lost family members due to COVID and had nowhere to turn and ended up becoming homeless. People are so quick to judge a homeless person based on their addictions but when you think about living a life with no opportunity or no avenue out of the demise, sometimes that’s the only way to cope with their situations. Maybe that one beer or one joint is the only thing keeping them going throughout the day. A lot of homeless people are unable to get documents for themselves to apply for jobs because of being from other places or being incarcerated or not even knowing the information that they need to give them the direction on where to go to receive that information. From the outside looking in you would never know as a regular person what a homeless person deals with on a day-to-day basis unless you stop and talk to them and hear directly from them.
I went out into the streets and met a multitude of people that were homeless. I asked them 1) what their relationship was with shelters? I wanted to know 2) what their experiences have been with the city, the public & also with the police? I asked them 3) what does help look like from the city? and I also asked them 4) how they would want to be presented as people to society?
To view more profiles of faces of Dallas visit shyaboutmyart.com. For more information about the state of homelessness in Dallas, visit https://dallascityhall.com.
Don Tortellini, born and raised in Dallas Texas, self-taught film photography during the pandemic and transitioned to digital over time. His ability to tell stories through his images is uncanny. In his first year alone he had 2 photo exhibitions, one that was featured at Southern Methodist University. He has been featured by Dallas Observer, D Magazine, Tashara Parker’s Cultured, Good Morning Texas & more.