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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, A Man And His Mom Brace For Moving Day

Allison V. Smith
KERA special contributor
Joe Garcia lives with his mom Lily in an HMK home. They have to leave by June 3, but have no place lined up for moving day.

The days are numbered for 305 weathered rental homes, most of them in West Dallas. The city says they aren’t up to code—so the landlord had to choose: fix them, or close up shop. He picked the latter.

With a June 3 deadline looming, many families have already moved. KERA’s series One Crisis Away: No Place To Go looks at life for those who remain.

I Came Back To My Roots’

Ronnie Mestas is a neighborhood leader. He sits on the education committee of ‘West Dallas 1’—a six-year-old group representing each of the local neighborhood associations. He also grew up in West Dallas, and after years in the Navy, decided to retire here too.

“I came back to my roots, I love it here,” says Mestas.

Mestas doesn’t fear gentrification. He knows it signals change; landlords charging more, property taxes ticking up, more visitors. He says development also cleans up the neighborhood. Before all the new construction, one of his friends was afraid to take her grandkids to play outside.

“She couldn’t go there because it was a swamp, there was mosquitos, there were trailers, trash, prostitutes, drug dealers all of that stuff in that area where she’s at,” he says.

Concern For His Community

He’s also worried about neighbors who live in rental homes owned by HMK Ltd—the ones that will be cleared out next month.

They’ve had seven months’ notice to vacate. Mestas says most of them pay $300-$500 a month. Being given notice isn’t the issue.

“These are the last homes that you’re going to find anywhere at that price,” he says.

Just ask Joe Garcia. The 53-year-old HMK tenant lives in a small two bedroom house with his 84-year-old mom Lily.

The house isn’t falling down—it’s got a new teal paint job and recently replaced siding. Still, the floors creak, and the air conditioner sticks out a side window. It’s wedged in with an old piece of wood and duct tape.

Joe and Lily don’t know where to go,

“Not a plan yet but the day will have to come when we’ll have to move out. No “if whats” about it.”

Get to know Joe and Lily and their deep West Dallas roots.

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