"BEING IN A SHELTER IS NOT BEING FREE."
Charles is an artist. His schoolteachers taught him sewing as a creative outlet, and art has remained a constant - even as he moved into adulthood and searched for “a wife and a life.”
Charles found a wife and built a happy life with her, but when she died, the challenges of life led him into a downward spiral of depression. In 2012, he lost his home and lived in his car. As his descent continued, Charles moved into a homeless shelter, but the strict routines there were not ones Charles embraced. “I’ve always been independent,” he said. “I wanted to see movies at the park, but in a shelter, you follow their schedule.”
In 2014, Charles moved to “Tent City”, the notorious five-block homeless encampment underneath the I-45/I-30 interchange. There he found independence, but leaving the relative safety of shelters came at a cost: violent crime was the new reality of life in the “city under the bridge.”
Charles didn’t fit the stereotype of Tent City. He’s quick to tell you he earned money through selling his quilts, not panhandling. “Life in Tent City was rough. I got up in the mornings and got out to go do my art to avoid the problems,” he said.
When a City of Dallas team visited the encampment and offered options, Charles agreed to apply to Destination Home, a CitySquare housing program. Today, Charles has his own apartment and fills his days with sewing–in the fiber arts room of the Dallas Public Library–and service–as a committee member of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance.
“I like that CitySquare offers ‘housing first’ – get us off the streets, then figure the rest out,” said Charles. “I had depression, but I was making it. I want to help my people from tent city find their way since I’ve seen both sides of this. No shame in my game.”
Charles continues to piece together his life and his quilts, one day— one stitch—at a time.