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 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 these multimedia projects: The Price of Prison, a look at incarceration's total financial toll; Still on the Edge, a financial follow-up on North Texans we featured five years prior; After the Flood, an examination of how life changed for Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey; and more.

"Paying your debt to society by being incarcerated is just a simple myth," says Toby Savitz, ex-offender and director of programs at Pathfinders
Allison V. Smith for KERA

After serving two years in prison for possession of meth, Toby Savitz found herself in a series of low-paying jobs with no real path forward. She finally kicked the door open after landing a position at a nonprofit that helps ex-offenders like her. But she admits there aren’t enough jobs like hers to go around.

Marc Wilson standing outside the George L. Allen, Sr. Courts Building in downtown Dallas on Sept. 10, 2019. Much of the child support debt he racked up in prison has been reduced. But he's still far behind, and relief is tempered by feelings of guilt.
Allison V. Smith for KERA

Prison makes it nearly impossible to hold onto savings and earn money. But it's a great place to take on debt.

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African Americans are twice as likely to suffer from sudden cardiac death compared to whites — that rate is triple for black women. A new study published in the Dallas-based American Heart Association’s journal 'Circulation' shows that risk might be tied to income and education disparities.

Before prison, Marc Wilson was set up to pass on wealth-building opportunities to his children and grandchildren, like a house and tuition help.
Allison V. Smith for KERA

When people go to prison, income dries up and earning potential rockets backward.

And when you mix incarceration with America's legacy of systemic racism, an ex-offender's ability to hand off wealth to the next generation is an even heavier struggle.

Marc Wilson's personal wealth decreased significantly after serving a seven-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. "I'm starting from scratch, you know?"
Allison V. Smith for KERA

As a father, Marc Wilson had his family firmly in the middle class. Then a drug conviction sent him to prison for seven years. 

Associated Press

Homeless people in North Texas face a mountain of obstacles on the path to financial stability and often the largest setback comes from a small expense — think steel-toed boots for a factory job or an application fee for an apartment. About four years ago, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance created a fund aimed at helping low-income families meet these needs. 

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Being short on food or rent money are symptoms of poverty. Going without close friendships or being estranged from family are symptoms of what’s known as social poverty.

Professor Sarah Halpern-Meekin explains the dangers of being socially poor.

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Financial analysts have spent the last several weeks talking about whether a recession is looming.

On a recent episode of Think, host Krys Boyd talked with Ryan Nunn, an economic studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, about why sudden changes in the employment rate might mean a recession is near — or here.

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If someone winds up in jail because an unpaid traffic ticket leads to a suspended license and then an arrest warrant, does that mean being poor is, in one sense, a crime? Georgetown law professor Peter Edelman explores the topic in his new book, and on a recent episode of Think.

Nearly 1 in 3 Dallas children grow up in poverty — and more than 100,000 kids in the city are living below the poverty line. A North Texas nonprofit has a plan for a collaborative response and an ambitious goal: to cut childhood poverty in half within 20 years. 

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Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and other big cities have struggled for decades to help solve the issues of urban violence and poverty.

On a recent episode of Think, Harvard Research fellow Thomas Abt talked with host Krys Boyd about why violence often furthers financial hardship.

Stella Chávez / KERA News

New data shows that while homelessness is going down in Houston, it's going up in Dallas. The Point-In-Time Count is an annual census done at the end of each January across the country, and Juan Pablo Garnham wrote about this for the Texas Tribune. He spoke with KERA's Justin Martin.

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Almost 40% of homes in Texas are rented, and according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, finding an affordable one is a struggle. Research shows there's a shortage in Texas of close to 600,000 homes for the lowest income renters.

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The information that the census gathers every decade is critical for the government and determines many factors, including funding for programs that benefit low-income families.

But it's not a perfect process. Officials usually plan for an inaccurate count, but the 2020 census may prove to be more difficult than usual. 

Fighting Food Waste With A Phone App

Jul 3, 2019
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Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's about a pound of food per person every day. But one nonprofit is trying to reduce food waste with a smartphone app that connects businesses with local food banks.

Stella Chávez / KERA News

More than 4,000 students in the Dallas Independent School District are homeless. With no permanent place to call home, life can be stressful. That’s why homeless advocates say exposing kids to positive experiences is so important. One summer camp at the University of Texas at Dallas is doing just that.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

Denton Bible Church has some unusual outreach programs. The "Sweat Team" is a group of folks who help clean up storm debris. And then there's the "Cattle Ministry," a church-run herd that provides beef to low income families in Denton. 

Courtney Collins / KERA News

For Louanna Fowler, becoming homeless didn't happen little by little — it happened all at once. One day she was living in a foster home, the next, she had aged out and was on the street.

Associated Press

After high school, there a lot of different paths to choose from — college, vocational training, work, to name a few. A new report finds that millions of young adults who are looking for a job, can't find one.

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Americans with a lot of money are often praised as "hard workers,” but do elbow grease and ambition always lead to wealth?

Taylor Moran

Strong tornadoes and major floods often produce nonstop news coverage and an outpouring of charitable giving. It's the small storms, though, that tend to come and go without much notice.

That's when Denton Bible Church steps in.

Eugene Keahey died by suicide in connection with a suspicious house fire that killed his wife and two daughters. Their deaths have been ruled homicides.
Courtney Collins / KERA news

The people who live in the unincorporated Dallas County community of Sandbranch don't have running water. Pastor Eugene Keahey was working to change that, until a suspicious house fire in February. 

Last week, Keahey's death was ruled a "suicide by gunshot" — his wife and two daughters were declared victims of homicide. Now, a fellow pastor is struggling to reconcile Keahey's legacy.

Julio Cortez / Associated Press

Opportunity zones are an effort to bring investors to struggling neighborhoods in exchange for tax benefits. There are thousands across the country, including 18 in Dallas County, seven in Tarrant and three in Denton County.

Pastor Eugene Keahey in 2015, standing by the water tank at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Courtney Collins / KERA News

Sandbranch, an unincorporated community in southeast Dallas County, doesn't have running water. And the man who fought so hard to change that, Pastor Eugene Keahey, was killed in a house fire.

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Many American families are staring down retirement with hardly any money set aside.

In fact, sociology professor and author Katherine S. Newman says about half of Americans have no savings at all. Many others haven't saved enough.

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To avoid what's been dubbed the "benefits cliff," some workers turn down higher-paying jobs because it would disqualify them from public assistance.

stack of diapers
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Diapers Etc. hands out around 10,000 to 12,000 diapers per month to families in need, for free. For those families on the financial edge, the necessary baby-care staple would be a crippling cost otherwise.

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Baby's first year is full of milestones, like first smile, first steps and first round of shots.

Everything about the first 12 months is new — including a major new line item in the family budget.

Many of the people who care for disabled Texans don’t earn a living wage. Charlotte Stewart is executive director of REACH, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities. She has a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, and she's helping lead the fight to boost pay for aides funded by Medicaid. They’re known as community attendants.

Courtney Collins / KERA news

A choir for homeless men and women in Dallas has inspired street choirs across the country to form and collaborate. Its founder has formed a multi-city alliance and dreams of eventually creating a national street choir.

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