America is supposed to offer the promise of upward mobility for those willing to put in the labor. So why are nearly 31,000 Dallas residents, and their families, working full time but still mired in poverty? The Dallas Morning News editorial board has researched for months to learn more about the city’s working poor, the obstacles they face and how the city can restore faith in a path to the middle class.
Meet Kiala, 25
Kiala Proctor has a dilemma.
She’s an impoverished mother of two sweet-faced children with a full-time job that keeps her out of the house five evenings a week. She’s a second-shift dishwasher at the Hilton Anatole, and a pretty good one. If you have any questions about that, Matthew Jr., 7, will be quick to show off her framed certificate of appreciation from the hotel.
The job pays $10.50 per hour, about $21,000 per year. That’s enough to pay the family’s bills, but it’s not enough to pay for child care.
Proctor knows she’s more fortunate than many. She has a job, one that pays her just enough to cover her bills. After six years on the waiting list, she was finally approved for public housing. This may change when her annual review is conducted, but for now that means she pays no rent.
But she also conceded that if she never makes more than $21,000 a year, she and her children are going to stay impoverished for a long time. That’s why she sought out the Wilkinson Center in Dallas last year and started working on her GED. She earned it this year.