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

Rebuilding A Life: After Tornado Crushes Rental House, Uninsured Family Starts From Scratch

Lara Solt
KERA special contributor
Kaden Beck, 6, Kairi Beck, 8, and Joshua Tucker, 9, play at their old rental house-- now a construction site.

KERA's series One Crisis Away: Rebuilding a life, looks at tornado recovery for folks on the financial edge. It's estimated only 40 percent of people who lease apartments or houses have renters insurance. They need that money to buy food and pay the bills.

One Garland family is living with the fallout from that after a tornado ripped apart their house and smashed their truck.

Even though the landlord’s paying to rebuild their home, everything else is up to them.

Contractor Charles Beck is working hard to put a storm-wrecked house back together. He’s particularly invested, because he used to live in this particular home. Before the tornado, he was renting it with his fiancée and their three kids.

“Luckily we got the contract to do the repairs on our home,” he says. “That helped put me back to work.”

Starting From Scratch

Beck’s a contractor, and his work truck full of tools was crushed on Dec. 26.

“Had general liability insurance on it, so any damages to the truck weren’t covered,” says Beck. “A lot of the tools I lost, that was probably at least a good $10,000 investment right there.”

They didn’t have renter’s insurance either, so everything the storm broke, they’ve got to replace out of pocket.

“It’s not just the big ticket items, it’s all the little things,” says Beck. “When you think about having to replace the food in your fridge, it’s not just a grocery shopping trip, it’s everything from the ketchup to the mustard, it’s a lot more expensive than just your weekly grocery shopping trip.”

Five Days Too Soon

Beck’s fiancée Jessica Cadick says they spent last fall calling insurance companies to get renter’s insurance quotes. They decided to put off buying a policy until the first of the year.

“Get through Christmas, make sure the kids had a good Christmas and then get renters insurance in January,” she says. “So five days previous to, it would have really been handy.”

Beck has two children, a six year-old boy and an 8 year-old girl. Cadick’s son is 9. They’re living in a temporary rental house while the old one’s under construction. Leasing it costs $200 a month more than their other place did. That stretches their already tight budget even tighter. Plus, they’re homesick.

“The kids will come downstairs out of the blue and say, I want to go home. When we’re sitting in our new rental,” Cadick says.

Check out the rebuilding progress on Cadick and Beck’s home here.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.