One Crisis Away | KERA News

One Crisis Away

Lindsay Diaz and her son stand in what's left of their home after tornadoes tore through North Texas on Dec. 26, 2015.
Credit Lara Solt

KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

The problem's known as asset poverty, and it doesn’t discriminate. A job loss, health emergency, even legal trouble can be enough to plunge a third of our friends and neighbors into financial distress. One Crisis Away puts a human face on asset poverty and the financial struggles of people in North Texas

Explore the series so far and join the KERA News team as they add new chapters to One Crisis Away in the months to come.

One Crisis Away is funded in part by the Communities Foundation of Texas, Allstate Foundation, the Dallas Women's Foundation, The Fort Worth Foundation, The Thomson Family Foundation, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Schnthia Herod has always had big, bright eyes and even bigger plans for herself. When we first met her in 2013, the 11-year-old was proud to have mastered many household tasks and basic budgeting.

"If I didn't learn all the cleaning and all the chores and the discipline now, when I grow up and my mom's not there to walk me through every step, I'd be lost," she said.

Now, at 16, Schnthia is the mom looking out for a little one. Five month-old Eulijah is all she thinks about.

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Almost half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and with the lack of affordable housing, it’s no wonder more than 500,000 Americans spend the night on the streets.

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Saving rates have fallen over the last few decades, and a new survey finds 42 percent of Americans have saved just $10,000 or less for their retirement.

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As the middle class changes, sometimes even households with six figure incomes are struggling. The typical American worker puts in 47 hours a week, and nearly 5 percent work more than one job, with hours that vary depending on the needs of big corporations.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the fastest-growing segment of the workforce is people 75 and older. Shirley Martin is one of them.

When we met her five years ago, she was a greeter at Walmart, making slightly more than minimum wage. Today, she's 77 and manages a group home for adults with disabilities in South Dallas. 

She's better off financially, but to stay that way, she works full time — and she has no plans to stop.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

As 3-year-old Arian and his mom Lindsay Diaz patiently roll Play-Doh into snakes on the island in their new kitchen, a rumble can be heard just outside their front door.

Crews are taking down a tornado-damaged house across the way — two and a half years after the storm that destroyed it tore through Rowlett.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

On paper, Natalie Berquist has a good, steady grip on her life. She's had the same job for five years and earns $17 an hour, with benefits. Despite making more than double the minimum wage, she was struggling when we met her five years ago. And now, she’s still juggling work, money and a more complicated version of motherhood.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

Life hasn't changed much since we visited Jubilee Park three years ago. It's a neighborhood on the financial edge, in the shadow of Interstate 30 in Old East Dallas. Chris Crowley was born and raised there. He's got a better job now, but he's spending 24 hours a week commuting.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

With a low unemployment rate and hot housing market, North Texas boasts of having one of the country’s strongest economies. But new research on Dallas County from the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Center for Public Policy Priorities paints a different picture.

Jessica Diaz-Hurtado / KERA News special contributor

There’s a lawsuit brewing in West Dallas, where dozens of former renters purchased homes last year.

These low-cost rental properties owned by HMK Ltd. had racked up numerous code violations and were slated for closure after the city of Dallas tightened housing standards.

HMK sold many of those homes to tenants. Now, a lawsuit filed in federal court by two of the homeowners alleges the mortgage contracts are predatory.

About every five years, Congress reconsiders the farm bill. The package deals with most affairs regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill also funds the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) — what used to be called “food stamps.” 

Millions of Texans depend on SNAP to help buy food every month, and recent attempts by the U.S. House to change the program didn't work because the bill lacked votes. The Senate, however, is expected to release its own version of a farm bill this June.

Allison V. Smith / KERA news special contributor

Dallas’ first comprehensive housing policy, approved last week, is designed to encourage more affordable housing and disrupt patterns of segregation and gentrification. However, the policy has its critics.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Tuition will increase at all eight University of Texas system schools this fall, and price hikes might be driving down enrollment. According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than half of U.S. public colleges didn't meet their enrollment goals this year.

One Arlington family decided to study at the community college level instead — and this weekend, they'll finish, together.

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Since the recession of 2008, and the housing market crash, fewer Americans are able to purchase a home. And a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that since then, many families have become "rent burdened" and struggle to pay the bills. 

Courtney Collins / KERA news

New research shows that even basic digital skills bump earning potential by about 17 percent. And since the auto industry is moving in a digital direction, there are a lot of good-paying jobs to be found there. A few hundred Dallas high schoolers just got to see for themselves.

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It's been 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law. It's designed to protect people from discrimination as they try to get a home loan, buy a house, or rent.

Peniel Joseph with the School of Public Affairs at UT Austin says its legacy has been a mixed bag. He talked with David Brown, host of Texas Standard. 

Allison V. Smith / KERA News special contributor

A new study by the Communities Foundation of Texas and the left-leaning Center For Public Policy Priorities evaluated education, employment, debt, housing and healthcare across Dallas County. 

The data show experiences vary greatly from zip code to zip code.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

Whether it's cashing a check, wiring cash to a friend, or trying to borrow money, people living in poverty have a different experience than those on sound financial footing. One North Texas nonprofit aims to close that gap by giving those with financial means, a taste of life without.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

There's a training program in Dallas that wants to match veterans struggling to find work with jobs that actually pay the bills.

Business Insider ranked Dallas-Fort Worth the 11th most "high-tech city" in the world last year, up from 28th the year before. There's plenty of demand for tech workers, just not enough supply.

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Access to credit is how most people buy houses, pay for school or get a new car. Borrowing money and paying it back is how people participate in the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has been exploring debt trends in Dallas County. Emily Perlmeter wrote the report, and explains what she found.

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When people are arrested and can't afford to bail themselves out, they can sit in jail for days or even weeks awaiting trial. That may cost them their house, job or kids.

A 21-year-old SMU student is trying to level the playing field by starting a bail fund of his own.

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Childhood trauma and health consequences often go hand in hand. Whether a child is suffering from neglect or living with a substance-abusing or simply overwhelmed parent, over time those stressors can take a toll on the body, and mind.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

Until last month, West Dallas had just one brick-and-mortar bank out on the fringe of the neighborhood, near the interstate.

A new bank branch wants to build a relationship with the heart of the community: low- and middle-income families who've lived there for decades.

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Each day, social workers must decide whether or not the children they visit should be removed from their parents’ homes. It’s a decision that changes the courses of those kids’ lives.

During a recent episode of  KERA's "Think," Naomi Schaefer Riley, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, talked about how we can better harness statistical information to help make these decisions.

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The left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, based in Austin, works on everything from health care to hunger.

Executive Director Ann Beeson lays out the most pressing issues she thinks Texans, especially low-to-moderate income Texans, are up against in 2018.

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The North Texas Food Bank is exploring the link between hunger and bullying. Researchers wanted to find out if kids who are food insecure were more likely to be bullied than kids who got enough to eat, and whether hungry kids are more likely to bully others. 

Government Relations Director Valerie Hawthorne explains the results.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

Fewer than 40 percent of community college students get a degree within six years, and low-income students are even more at risk of dropping out.

A Catholic Charities Fort Worth program decided to evaluate whether a mentor makes a difference when it comes to staying in school.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

One Dallas school is devoted to helping its students get hands-on experience with money. Conrad High School is home to many low-income and refugee students, and some of them help support their families financially. Teachers says that means learning about budgeting, saving and investing can't wait.

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A 2010 Washington University study says kids with college savings accounts are seven times more likely to go to college than kids without them.

Woody Widrow with the RAISE Texas organization explains what families on a tight budget can do to carve out room to save.

Allison V. Smith / KERA news special contributor

For people with disabilities, leaving before a storm hits, or being rescued in the aftermath can be complicated. One Hurricane Harvey evacuee from Beaumont is trying to hold on to her independence, while starting over in North Texas. It's part of KERA's series One Crisis Away: After The Flood.

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