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

One Crisis Away: No Place To Go, Tracing West Dallas History From Bonnie And Clyde To Today

Allison V. Smith for KERA News
KERA news special contributor
Glitzy apartments and tougher housing standards are forcing out hundreds of families who’ve called West Dallas home for generations";

A century ago, West Dallas was a poor, mostly white, unincorporated home for folks on the edge of society. As industry came, black families moved in— then Latinos, who put down roots that still run deep today.

The one thread that connects all those people is poverty. And that’s just now starting to change.

KERA's new series One Crisis Away: No Place To Go explores a neighborhood on the financial edge—bracing for gentrification.

Glitzy apartments and tougher housing standards are forcing out hundreds of families who’ve called West Dallas home for generations. Many of them have no place to go.

A New Way To Go West

Driving from downtown to West Dallas got a whole lot grander five years ago. The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge is sleek and fast, you zip across the Trinity River with the Dallas skyline in your rearview—and dead ahead, a restaurant mecca.

Spiced lamb skewers, duck fat fried rice, a shop that sells nothing but cake; Trinity Groves is a collection of more than a dozen restaurants under one long roof.

Venture a little deeper into the neighborhood, past the valet stands and happy hour crowd, and the scene shifts. In front of small, weathered homes-- folks watch the world from their front porches.

A Quieter Side Of West Dallas

“You don’t have to be rich you know, a home can be whatever you make it,” says long-time resident Ronnie Mestas. “For the most part this is a pretty quiet neighborhood really. Sit out in the front, or cook in the back, I just love it.”

He says it’s the same West Dallas that’s been here for generations, before a bridge made it easy for the rest of North Texas to find. To understand this part of the neighborhood, you have to go back in time—all the way to the Great Depression.

Click here for a West Dallas history lesson.

Explore the entire digital storytelling project for One Crisis Away: No Place To Go.

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.