Traditional measures of poverty do not capture the magnitude of people who are struggling financially. Reality Check is a series that makes the invisible visible by shining a light on the true number of families struggling in Harris County and across the U.S.

Access to early education, affordable housing, traditional lending, and healthcare can help to break the cycle of living hand to mouth, this series explores how we as a community can make this a reality.

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Episode 7: Financial Stability

Financial Security for ALICE families (asset limited, income constrained, employed) is largely dependent on access to and the costs of basic necessities like housing, food, transportation, childcare, and healthcare.

But when families struggle to cover these basic costs, financial stability can quickly spiral out of control, leading to bad credit and missed opportunities.

In Episode 7 we discuss the situation millions of families find themselves in when struggling to stay ahead of the bills and what resources could most benefit ALICE families in Texas.

Reality Check Episode 7


Episode 6: The Effects of Poor Mental Health

Good health is about physical and mental wellbeing. A person’s emotional, psychological and social wellbeing are just as crucial as physical health, and they all impact one another substantially.

For families struggling to make ends meet, the stress of day to day life can become overwhelming and prolonged, leading to higher risks for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and poor physical health outcomes.

In Episode 6 of Reality Check, we explore some of the situational factors that can lead to diminishing mental health and how those scenarios can further push a family deeper into a cycle of poverty and duress.

Reality Check Episode 6


Episode 5: The True Cost of Good Health

Families living paycheck to paycheck face many circumstances that can make it difficult for them to achieve and maintain good health. With little or no access to healthcare providers, nutritious diets, or good information, many families simply aren’t able to be active participants in their health outcomes. As we’ve learned in the pandemic, the health of our community is fragile, and we are much safer when everyone has access to medical services.

In episode 5 of Reality Check, we explore the many challenges of navigating the healthcare system in the United States and what we as a community can do to help ensure that working families aren’t having to make life or death decisions based solely on their income.

Reality Check Episode 5


Episode 4: The Impact of Out of School Time

Children are constantly learning. With a large majority of a child’s waking hours spent outside of the classroom, what happens before and after school plays a much bigger role in a child’s development than many of us acknowledge.

Afterschool programs have proven to support social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development, reduce risky behaviors, promote physical health, and provide a safe and supportive environment for children and youth.

In episode 4 of Reality Check, we explore what we as a community can do to insure that a child’s support network doesn’t disappear when the dismissal bell rings.

Reality Check Episode 4


Episode 3: The Importance of Early Education

It is crucial to expose children to new experiences and ideas early on, because 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 5.

The data clearly shows that children who receive early, quality education outperform those who do not. Yet access to affordable childcare is a challenge for many, especially those who live paycheck to paycheck.

In episode 3 of Reality Check, we explore what quality childcare is all about, and what parents can do to help ensure that their child develops a healthy love of the classroom.

Reality Check Episode 3


Episode 2: The COVID-19 Constrain

At least 47% of Greater Houston Area families are living below the poverty level.

Those numbers were calculated before the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that COVID-19 hardships have caused more families to become financially strained and has made life even tougher for those who were already struggling. Families who were already living on the edge are having to make tough short-term financial decisions about healthcare, education, and work that can have long term effects on their ability to pull themselves out of poverty.

In episode 2 of Reality Check, we examine who are the most vulnerable in our community as Harris County grapples with COVID-19.

Reality Check Episode 2


Episode 1: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed

Individuals in Harris County are struggling. Almost 50% of the Houston workforce does not make enough money to support a family. Many in our community cannot always pay the bills, have little or nothing in savings, and are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent. One unexpected car repair or medical bill can push these financially strapped families over the edge.

The future success of our communities is directly tied to the financial stability of these fragile working households. In episode one, we explore who these people are, how our economy has changed over the last 40 years, and what it means to be asset limited or income constrained while employed.

Reality Check Episode 1