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Lindsay Diaz and her son stand in what's left of their home after tornadoes tore through North Texas on Dec. 26, 2015.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 TexasExplore 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 Texas Women's Foundation, The Fort Worth Foundation, The Thomson Family Foundation, and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

One Crisis Away: Fort Worth Man Drowning In Old Debt Works To Catch Up On Child Support

Lara Solt
KERA news special contributor
Angelo Collins works at AAA Data Communications in south Dallas.

Most people are working to pay down something. A mortgage, a credit card balance, a car note. There’s another kind of debt too—accounts that have fallen behind. They’re called delinquencies; they can wreck a credit score and stick around for years.

KERA's series One Crisis Away: Drowning In Debt has the story of one man working to get out from under a mountain of missed child support payments.

Triple A Data Communications in south Dallas is a quiet place to work. Angelo Collins likes it that way. He’s alone in a small office filled with boxes full of validators for DART busses—they’re basically wireless “easy-pay consoles” for riders to use.

A Job He Can Count On

Collins programs each one; downloading software and repacking the box once the device is ready to go.

It’s a full time job with benefits that pays $18 an hour-- money Collins is grateful to have. He’s working to become debt free after getting divorced last year.

“I had to kind of regroup myself and mentally prepare myself to put things back in order," he says.

Falling Behind

Collins has two teenagers. He and his wife were separated for several years before the divorce was finalized. Child support bills piled up while he worked and went to school. In 2014, he took on a full course load studying electronics and telecommunications.

“And I just concentrated on school for that one year, so that kind of dropped me, put me back on child support," he says.

He fell $6,000 behind. He’s back to making payments now, but hates the pile of debt with his name on it.

"In nowadays that we live in, that stays on your name. Wherever you move, that moves with you, that same mountain, you pull that mountain behind you," he says.

Hear how Angelo Collins is attacking his mountain of debt, and learn how unpaid bills and other delinquencies can hurt your credit score here.