KERA series follows families on the financial edge.
ONE IN THREE NORTH TEXANS can’t weather a financial storm that lasts 90 days. The problem is known as asset poverty, and it doesn’t discriminate. A job loss, health emergency, even legal trouble is enough to plunge a third of our friends and neighbors into financial distress. KERA’s One Crisis Away series follows four families on the financial edge. Below are spotlights of two of those families. One Crisis Away is funded in part by Communities Foundation of Texas, Allstate Foundation, Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Fort Worth Foundation, Thomson Family Foundation and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
Surviving Retirement: How Shirley Martin Stays Afloat
Preparing for retirement is daunting, and without an inheritance, a hefty pension or a 401(k), it can be tough just to get by. Take Shirley Martin, for example. She is a retired cook who gets a Social Security check every month and an annual retirement from her time cooking at a Dallas private school. But with no savings, she doesn’t have enough to pay the mortgage and her bills.
To stay above water, she turned to Shared Housing, a nonprofit that provides her with tenants. She leases out two rooms in her four-bedroom ranch style house for $400 a month apiece. “If they weren’t here, I wouldn’t be able to make it, it’s just as simple as that,” Shirley says. She worries about money every day.
“Not making my mortgage is number one, and then of course the plumbing. Things can happen, bills, your insurance, your car breaking down,” she says. While financial concerns are top of mind, Shirley says she’d rather focus on what’s good in her life—a loving family and those kitchen skills. Despite her difficult financial situation, Shirley’s dream is to one day start her own nonprofit that helps people find affordable housing.
Meet The Madrids
Eighteen months ago, Isac Madrid, his wife, Elizabeth, and their 1-year-old son had two incomes and a savings account. Now, after a medical setback, they’re barely hanging on financially. This is a common occurrence in Dallas, where 40% of households are one crisis away from falling into poverty.
Isac has a rare disorder called Erythropoietic Protoporphyria, EPP for short. On Nov. 11, Isac had a bone marrow transplant. Every day since, he’s been back to the hospital for labs and checkups.
“Ever since the transplant, they monitor me constantly, make sure my blood levels are good; they’re high enough for me to battle some infections that I may get,” Isac says.
Aside from the obvious pain he’s in, Isac battles chronic worry. He’s too sick to work, which puts his family in a tight spot financially.
His disability benefits plus income from his wife’s full-time job don’t cover all their expenses, so they’re constantly juggling bills and payments. They’ve even started an online fundraising drive.
"Our hope would be within just a few months of transplant that he would be back to normal," says Fr. Estil Vance with Texas Oncology. Isac says he eagerly looks foward to the day when he's back to work supporting his family.
UPDATE: On February 13, 2014, Isac passed away from comlications due to his illness. You can view his memorial service on KERA.org.