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

After The Flood: Man In His 50s Hopes To Re-Start Life And Career In Fort Worth

Allison V. Smith
KERA news special contributor
Lewis Small left Port Arthur behind after flooding from Hurricane Harvey wrecked the apartment he shared with his cousin. He's hoping to start over in Fort Worth.

Close to 4,000 people made their way to North Texas Red Cross shelters to escape Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophic flooding that came with it. The storm claimed lives, homes and people's sense of security.

KERA's series One Crisis Away: After The Flood has the story of a man who left Port Arthur for good to start over in Fort Worth, with high hopes of re-starting his career too.

A meticulous new start

Spend some time with Lewis Small and one thing becomes clear. The man is a perfectionist. His apartment is sparkling; no dishes in the sink and everything's in its place. There's a perfectly set table at all times. He wakes up at the crack of dawn every day to iron his clothes, eat breakfast and pack his lunch for work.

Then he walks out of his Fort Worth apartment and hoofs it to his job at the neighboring car wash.

"So one day I was standing out there, I said 'well, I'm going to walk over to the car wash and see if they're hiring.' And I went over there and filled out an application, and then he called me to come in for an interview," Small said. "And it couldn't have been a better bless, to where I don't have to catch a bus, I can walk to work, it only takes me two minutes."


The perfect short-term solution

Small likes the work, for now, and he's happy. In the long run though, he wants a different kind of job. Warehouse work-- driving a forklift, loading and unloading shipments. The kind of job he wasn't able to find in Port Arthur.

"I wasn't working. I was unemployed," he said.

The October unemployment rate in Port Arthur was 9.5 percent. Compare that to 3 percent in the Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington metro area. In September, the month following Hurricane Harvey, unemployment in Port Arthur jumped to 12 percent. Small says that's the main the reason he decided to leave his flooded apartment behind, and head to North Texas.

"Because I think I needed a new start. To focus on my last career, you know, I'm up in age right now and I needed a new start," he said.

To get to that new start, he had to get through Hurricane Harvey. Learn more about his journey form Port Arthur to Fort Worth, and his hopes for the future 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.