Photographs Not Taken
HOMELESSNESS... MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
I do love to read books about photography, and most recently finished reading "Photographs Not Taken"... a collection of photographer's essays edited by Will Steacy. It was quite fascinating to read why certain photos were not taken by professional photographers and it started me thinking about photos that I did not take and why, and several came to mind.
There are many photos I did not take in the past, and in retrospect, I wish I had... but most recently I experienced "a photograph not taken" on Mother's Day of this year. Our Mother's Day celebration was to be postponed for a week as my daughters had previous engagements, so I took off for White Rock Lake with camera in hand for a relaxing day out. The weather couldn't have been better as I watched families having fun, playing games, sharing a picnic lunch and laughing together. There were moms walking hand in hand with their husbands or with their children. A delightful day for them to remember.
After doing some nature photography, I headed home. As Buckner Road meets I-30, it is necessary to come to a stop and take turns entering the roadway leading onto I-30 east and nearly every time there has been one or two homeless people holding a cup out asking for money or holding a sign asking for dinner or "will work for food", and today was no different.
I have often wondered about this, and if I should be giving money but I never have. Will it be used for food or will it buy alcohol, cigarettes or drugs? It is awkward for the brief time you are stopped as your eyes meet... and then you go on... and then you forget.
On Mother's Day there was a woman begging at the side of the road. I have seen her before. On a number of occasions I had thought about taking her photo as she could be "the poster child" for the homeless... matted dirty hair, coarse skin that has been ravaged by years in the sun with thick wrinkles probably making her look years older than her actual age, thin and somewhat feeble looking and dressed in clothes that are filthy and tattered. Her hands are covered with dirt and she does not smile and what teeth she has are in poor condition. And today, I had my camera sitting right next to me but the thoughts of taking her photo just didn't seem right. It seemed offensive and disrespectful to a woman whose life situation is so dire.
I reached in my little cubby hole in the car where I keep a few dollars and pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to her. She looked at me and then said... "God Bless You". It was then my turn to move into traffic and as I did so, I wondered how she came to be homeless. I wondered if she was an alcoholic, on drugs or mentally ill? I wondered where she slept at night, if she had any other clothes to wear and if she was able to bathe. I wondered about her health and doubted she was getting enough food to eat. So many questions and so few answers. I wanted to know more. My $5 was not about to change her situation though it might buy her a big Mac and a cold drink.
I looked across an expanse of grass that extended beneath the freeway and in the distance I could see a couple garbage bags and what appeared to be clothing and sheets or blankets on the ground. So was that where she spent the night? Are there other homeless people sleeping beneath the roadway as well? It was all so sad and tears came to my eyes as I wondered if she had children or a family. The plight of the homeless is a difficult one and I do not know the answer. It is reported that 80% have no contact with family or children.
Facts Regarding Chronic Homelessness in Dallas
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Those Who Are Chronically Homeless
48% reported chronic mental illness
49% reported chronic substance abuse
51% reported criminal histories
51% reported serious medical problems
23% reported having AIDS
In reading more about this, I found it interesting that many safe havens require the homeless to attend religious services as a condition for housing and as a result, many homeless refuse to comply with these conditions and refuse shelter. WWJD?
For many... it is the end of the line and they will die on the streets of disease, hunger, exposure to the elements or as a result of drugs, alcohol or the victim of murder or suicide.
This is an ongoing problem and there are more questions than answers.
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