One Crisis Away | KERA News

One Crisis Away

KERA’s One Crisis Away project focuses a spotlight on North Texans living on the financial edge both in weekly stories and regular in-depth series.

A scene from West Dallas near Singleton Boulevard.
Credit Allison V. Smith for KERA News

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 Dallas-Fort Worth.  

Explore multimedia projects: No Place To Go, a deep dive into affordable housing and gentrification in West Dallas; Rebuilding A Life, a series about North Texans recovering from devastating tornadoes; Drowning In Debt, stories about and resources for living with financial burden; and more.

Christopher Scott, wrongfully convicted of murder in Dallas, was exonerated in 2009. He spent 12 years in prison.
Allison V. Smith

The statistics are startling: If you’re a black man in America, you’re five times as likely to go to state prison as a white man. Latinos and African Americans make up one-third of the U.S. population; they make up two-thirds of the prison population.

You can’t talk about incarceration without talking about race. Christopher Scott knows that too well.

Kristie Tingle is the Center For Public Policy Priorities research analyst. She presented her latest findings to government officials and leaders of non-profits on the effects to children of poverty.
Bill Zeeble / KERA News

More than one in five Dallas children lives in poverty, while one in four Dallas families have a parent who was born in another country, a new study details. That's just two of the statistics detailed in the new "State of Texas Children" report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Chainnaron Soeurn at Hutchins State Jail on Aug. 15, 2018.
Thorne Anderson

A lot of people see prison as the last resort — the ultimate thing to avoid. Then there's Chainnaron Soeurn. After he was released, the struggle to pay the costs of probation was so tough that he chose to go back behind bars.

Stanley Walington, 38, with his girlfriend Lynette Sherman, 24, and their children Honesty, 1; Promiss, 3; and Stanley Jr., 2; in their apartment in Fort Worth. Walington was recently released from Buster Cole State Jail in Bonham, Texas.
Allison V. Smith

Calculating the exact cost of time behind bars is almost impossible. The meter starts running at the moment of arrest, and doesn’t stop after someone’s released. From lawyer fees to jail calls to probation, going away is expensive. Just ask 37-year-old Stanley Walington, a father of five. 

Michael Zanussi / Flickr Creative Commons

Numerous laws protect people from discrimination when they're searching for a home. But many areas across North Texas and around the country still struggle with patterns of housing inequities and segregation.

The Market at Bonton Farms is set to open November 19.
Courtney Collins / KERA

Bonton Farms in South Dallas is evolving to serve its community, by serving meals.

 

On Nov. 19, Bonton Farms will open a market and cafe, in a neighborhood that's long struggled with access to fresh, healthy food. The hope is to inspire residents to make lifelong changes.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin is known as a city of renters — more than half of residents lease a place to live. And each day, a dozen Travis County families are evicted. Audrey McGlinchy of KUT decided to explore what happens when someone can no longer pay the rent, and got to know several people facing eviction.

Michael Zanussi / Flickr Creative Commons

As the Dallas economy has boomed over the last decade, something else has surged, too — the wealth gap between whites and people of color.

A report released this month by nonprofit Prosperity Now attributes the disparity, in part, to the city’s “extensive history of segregation and its longer lasting effects.” And exacerbating these disparities are home values and housing costs in Dallas.

Alexander Oganezov / shutterstock.com

The traditional career at a single company with a pension and retirement is rare these days. For many, it's about piecing together part time or temp jobs to pay the bills.

Recently on Think, host Krys Boyd spoke to professor of economic history Louis Hyman about how we got to a gig economy.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

Accross the country the price of rent is leveling off, and in some places it's even dropping. 

A new report from Zillow shows that rents were up just half a percent in July, which appears to be the smallest gain for any month since 2012.

Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist for Zillow, joined KERA to crunch the numbers.

Elise Amendola / AP

What would happen if all Americans were guaranteed a monthly income — whether or not they were employed?

Annie Lowrey is a contributing editor for The Atlantic and author of the book "Give People Money." She spoke with Krys Boyd on a recent episode of KERA's Think about how universal basic income — UBI for short — might change this country.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

For the 17th straight year, the Communities Foundation of Texas mobilized volunteers across North Texas, hoping to commemorate the Sept. 11 terror attacks with hard work and compassion. 

In total, they tackled 27 service projects across the region.

STEPHANIE KUO / KERA News

In the city of Dallas, 23 percent of residents live under the poverty line — that's higher than the national average.

CitySquare is a nonprofit that's been fighting poverty in Dallas for 30 years. It offers job training, food, health care — and housing units.

Larry James, longtime CEO of CitySquare, recently talked with Krys Boyd on KERA’s Think about how they're trying to reduce homelessness with a "housing first" approach.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

A North Texas nonprofit wants to bring services like food stamps and job assistance right to people's front doors.

In March, the United Way of Tarrant County launched its mobile community center. Originally venturing out once a week, deployments were doubled in August.  

Carlos Osorio / AP

A few years back, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha felt perfectly comfortable telling parents it was fine for their kids to drink the town’s water. Flint, Michigan was a part of America, wasn’t it?

After she learned it was contaminated with lead, she evolved from passive pediatrician to investigator of the city’s water supply and activist for the public’s health. And the repercussions are still playing out.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Schnthia Herod has always had big, bright eyes and even bigger plans for herself. When we first met her in 2013, the 11-year-old was proud to have mastered many household tasks and basic budgeting.

"If I didn't learn all the cleaning and all the chores and the discipline now, when I grow up and my mom's not there to walk me through every step, I'd be lost," she said.

Now, at 16, Schnthia is the mom looking out for a little one. Five month-old Eulijah is all she thinks about.

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Almost half of all renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and with the lack of affordable housing, it’s no wonder more than 500,000 Americans spend the night on the streets.

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Saving rates have fallen over the last few decades, and a new survey finds 42 percent of Americans have saved just $10,000 or less for their retirement.

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As the middle class changes, sometimes even households with six figure incomes are struggling. The typical American worker puts in 47 hours a week, and nearly 5 percent work more than one job, with hours that vary depending on the needs of big corporations.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the fastest-growing segment of the workforce is people 75 and older. Shirley Martin is one of them.

When we met her five years ago, she was a greeter at Walmart, making slightly more than minimum wage. Today, she's 77 and manages a group home for adults with disabilities in South Dallas. 

She's better off financially, but to stay that way, she works full time — and she has no plans to stop.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

As 3-year-old Arian and his mom Lindsay Diaz patiently roll Play-Doh into snakes on the island in their new kitchen, a rumble can be heard just outside their front door.

Crews are taking down a tornado-damaged house across the way — two and a half years after the storm that destroyed it tore through Rowlett.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

On paper, Natalie Berquist has a good, steady grip on her life. She's had the same job for five years and earns $17 an hour, with benefits. Despite making more than double the minimum wage, she was struggling when we met her five years ago. And now, she’s still juggling work, money and a more complicated version of motherhood.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

Life hasn't changed much since we visited Jubilee Park three years ago. It's a neighborhood on the financial edge, in the shadow of Interstate 30 in Old East Dallas. Chris Crowley was born and raised there. He's got a better job now, but he's spending 24 hours a week commuting.

Allison V. Smith for KERA News

With a low unemployment rate and hot housing market, North Texas boasts of having one of the country’s strongest economies. But new research on Dallas County from the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Center for Public Policy Priorities paints a different picture.

Jessica Diaz-Hurtado / KERA News special contributor

There’s a lawsuit brewing in West Dallas, where dozens of former renters purchased homes last year.

These low-cost rental properties owned by HMK Ltd. had racked up numerous code violations and were slated for closure after the city of Dallas tightened housing standards.

HMK sold many of those homes to tenants. Now, a lawsuit filed in federal court by two of the homeowners alleges the mortgage contracts are predatory.

About every five years, Congress reconsiders the farm bill. The package deals with most affairs regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The bill also funds the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) — what used to be called “food stamps.” 

Millions of Texans depend on SNAP to help buy food every month, and recent attempts by the U.S. House to change the program didn't work because the bill lacked votes. The Senate, however, is expected to release its own version of a farm bill this June.

Allison V. Smith / KERA news special contributor

Dallas’ first comprehensive housing policy, approved last week, is designed to encourage more affordable housing and disrupt patterns of segregation and gentrification. However, the policy has its critics.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

Tuition will increase at all eight University of Texas system schools this fall, and price hikes might be driving down enrollment. According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than half of U.S. public colleges didn't meet their enrollment goals this year.

One Arlington family decided to study at the community college level instead — and this weekend, they'll finish, together.

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Since the recession of 2008, and the housing market crash, fewer Americans are able to purchase a home. And a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts finds that since then, many families have become "rent burdened" and struggle to pay the bills. 

Courtney Collins / KERA news

New research shows that even basic digital skills bump earning potential by about 17 percent. And since the auto industry is moving in a digital direction, there are a lot of good-paying jobs to be found there. A few hundred Dallas high schoolers just got to see for themselves.

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