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Author: United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Together, We’re Raising Awareness of the Importance of Attainable Housing

Dallas Is Becoming Unaffordable

Dallas has a shortage of attainable homes and rental units, and this shortage is only expected to worsen as the city continues to grow.

Low wages and skyrocketing rental costs are driving the problem. Dallas’ top four most common jobs have a median wage of less than $40,500. Rent costs have increased 60% since 2015, causing almost 50% of renters in Dallas to pay more than they can afford in rent.

The dream of homeownership is even further out of reach for most North Texans. In 2023, a family would need to make a household income of around $135,000 to purchase the average home in Dallas.

Meanwhile, Dallas is facing a 33,600-unit gap in affordable rental housing, which is projected to grow to over 83,000 units by 2030 if we do not act now.

Why Attainable Housing Is Important

A lack of attainable housing doesn’t only impact our lower-income neighbors who struggle to pay their rent. This problem impacts all of us.

Ashley Brundage, executive director of housing stability and senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, is chair of the Dallas Housing Coalition Board of Directors and acts as the group’s spokesperson. She explains that access to housing is the No. 1 reason people move—and when people are forced out of cities like Dallas because of a lack of attainable housing, our entire economy suffers.

“According to U.S. Census data, 40% of people move due to access to housing. Where people move, companies move, and that’s not good for Dallas,” she said. “When we talk about the need for attainable housing, we aren’t only talking about housing that our teachers and police officers can afford. We are also talking about housing for the folks that keep our economy running: our laborers, the barista you chat with each morning, the grocery store clerks, your office’s administrative assistant.”

Census data shows that many people from Dallas have moved to the neighboring cities, seeking more attainable housing. For example, Kaufman County had the largest population growth in Texas, at 8.9%, between 2021 and 2022, according to the March 2023 Census data.

As cities that fail to offer affordable housing solutions ultimately drive out residents, other problems follow, including worker shortages, an increase in negative health outcomes for residents and, inevitably, less growth in their local economies. A lack of affordable housing options also leads to an increase in homelessness.

“Studies have shown that homelessness is a housing issue,” Brundage explains. “There is a direct correlation between cities with high housing costs and higher rates of homelessness.”

Uniting to Take Action Against the Housing Crisis

Dallas needs 100,000 new or refurbished affordable homes by 2033 to meet our housing demand. The clock is ticking, and without community-wide support for attainable housing, this crisis will only get worse.

This urgent situation prompted the formation of the Dallas Housing Coalition, with a clear mission: to act against the growing housing crisis in Dallas.

The Dallas Housing Coalition is comprised of more than 180 corporations, developers, builders, trade associations, higher education institutions, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and residents that are urging Dallas to invest in the future of our city. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is proud to be a member organization and on the coalition’s Steering Committee.

With a rallying cry of “Dallas is big enough for everyone,” the coalition has worked to raise awareness of our housing crisis. Over the last few years, members also advocated the City of Dallas to allocate $200 million to affordable housing in the upcoming bond election.

In the end, city leaders voted to allocate $631 million for housing.

“Although $61 million is far less than the $200 our city needs to expand housing options, this is still Dallas’ first significant investment in attainable housing and a sign that City Council heard us,” Brundage said.

The allocation of $61 million may afford just 1,150 affordable rental units—just 3% of Dallas’ current rental housing need, according to Child Poverty Action Lab.

However, even building 1,150 affordable rental units will be hugely beneficial to the families who end up in them. That’s why we’re calling on all registered voters in North Texas to vote in favor of Dallas’ bond amendments during the May 4 election.

‘Say Yes’ This May

Stable and affordable housing is a foundational factor for education, income and health, playing a crucial role in shaping the overall well-being of individuals and families.

During the May 4 election, we encourage all voters to support Dallas’ 10 bond propositions, which will address housing attainability and provide vital investments throughout the city. Learn more about the bond propositions in our recent blog.

“By uniting together, we are able to demonstrate our support for solving Dallas’ housing crisis and show our city representatives that this issue needs to be addressed,” Brundage says. “Because Dallas is big enough for everyone.”

For more information about the Dallas Housing Coalition and how you can get involved, visit

Reading Day Shares the Joy of Books with 20,000+ Local Students

Reading Day Fuels Early Literacy

Our annual Reading Day celebration isn’t just about encouraging children to love reading. It also supports early literacy by showing kids that books are fun, accessible and engaging.

Early literacy is directly connected to our focus areas of education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. When children develop strong reading skills, they are better equipped to succeed in school, which in turn supports college and career readiness and, later in life, career achievement and even overall health.

By encouraging early reading, together we can advance our mission to create access and opportunity for all North Texans to thrive.

Reading Day 2024 Impact

  • 20,000+

    local students

    positively impacted
  • 1,100+


  • 1,000


  • 42

    elementary campuses

  • 4,400+

    literacy kits

    prepared by our corporate partners
  • 20,000+

    local students

    positively impacted
  • 1,100+


  • 1,000


  • 42

    elementary campuses

  • 4,400

    literacy kits

    prepared by our corporate partners

Harmoni, age 10

Reading is one of the most important skills a person can have. It opens up a world of possibilities and allows people to learn about new things. At school, I have learned not only why reading is important, but how to read with fluency, competency and even personality. Readers are leaders, so read, read, read.

Reading Day in Photos

See how we celebrated United Way Reading Day across North Texas.
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View our full Reading Day album

Volunteer with Us

As we march toward our culminating Centennial celebration in the fall of 2025, our upcoming volunteer opportunities will enable change-seekers like you to network and make a direct impact here in North Texas. Activities will include everything from STEM education and career exposure to early literacy, physical and mental health, and food access. Complete our volunteer interest form to receive updates on how to get involved.

In the News

  • Former First Lady Laura Bush and United Way Reading Day on the Today Show

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  • Laura Bush Among Those Reading to Kids for United Way Reading Day

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  • For Reading Day, a Lifelong North Texas Educator Returns to School Where She Began Her Career

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  • Former First Lady Laura Bush Read to Students at J.N. Ervin Elementary School in Dallas

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  • Former First Lady Laura Bush Reads to Dallas ISD Students

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For Reading Day, a Lifelong North Texas Educator Returns to School Where She Began Her Career

As a lifelong educator who taught every grade but the fourth, Dr. Ehrhardt has built an impressive resume as a change-maker in the community.

In addition to serving as a teacher, principal and trustee for Dallas ISD, she served four terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, had the library at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School in Dallas named in her honor, and even taught children’s literature to our Honorary Reading Day Chair, Mrs. Laura Bush, at Southern Methodist University.

“I remember many of my favorite professors, including my favorite literature professor, Dr. Harryette Ehrhardt, who’s still a friend of mine,” Mrs. Bush said during her commencement speech congratulating the SMU Class of 2009. “Her children’s literature class inspired me to become a librarian. The books I read in her class I later read to children in my own classrooms, and to children in the classrooms I’ve visited across our country and around the world.”

Books have the power to change lives. They enable students to dream big, gain knowledge and soak up new perspectives. No one knows this better than Dr. Ehrhardt.

“You can use a book to go anywhere in the world, any time, any place in history,” she says. “And to give children that resource is to give them something to carry on with their lifelong learning.”

Four Ways to Support Early Literacy Right Here in North Texas

United Way Reading Day presented by Atmos Energy is the first event in our Aspire United Volunteer Series presented by Texas Instruments. Stay tuned for many more exciting opportunities to get involved and make an impact as we march toward our Centennial.

North Texas Mental Health Resources

Local Community Mental Health Providers

These community organizations are available to provide support to North Texans experiencing mental health challenges.

  • Adapt 24/7 Mobile Crisis Hotline: 866-260-8000
  • Collin County (Lifepath): 877-422-5939
  • Denton County (Mobile Crisis Outreach Team): 800-762- 0157
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • North Alliance on Mental Illness 24/7 Crisis Text Line: Text “NAMI” to 741-741
  • North Texas Behavioral Health Authority (DFW’s designated Local Behavioral Health Authority): 877-653-6363 or 214-366-9407
  • Southern Dallas Area Behavioral Health (walk-in clinic): 4215 Gannon Lane, Dallas 75237. Phone: 972-283-9090
  • Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas 24/7 Crisis Line: 988-828-1000
  • Texas Health Resources: 682-626-8719


Tips for Improved Mental Health

  • Mindfulness: Give your brain an opportunity to rest to decrease stress, improve focus and support a healthy immune system. Be sure to prioritize downtime, mindfulness and quiet in your life, even if it’s just a few moments a day. Practice being mindful, slowing down your thoughts and/or meditating on something positive, like the phrase, “All is well.”
  • Breathwork: Feeling stressed? Take a breather! Breathe in for 4 seconds and slowly breathe out. Repeat several times.
  • Exercise: Exercise is highly connected to mental health, so look for ways to incorporate more movement into your days. For example, take a brisk 10-minute walk to step away from stressors and clear your mind.
  • Sleep: Good sleep is a foundation for mental health. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try cutting back on caffeine and avoiding screens at least 1 hour before bedtime.
  • Fun: Look for opportunities to have fun! Having fun gives your brain a break from stress and worries and can help remind you of all the good things in life.
  • Interpersonal connections: Stay connected to people you love through phone calls, text or video chats.
  • Nutrition: Be mindful of “unhelpful coping strategies” like smoking and drinking—try to keep them to a minimum.

If you feel overwhelmed or unsafe, seek help from a local mental healthcare provider.

United Way Kicks Off ‘Democracy in America’ Series To Encourage a Healthy Democracy Positioned to Meet Our Community’s Biggest Challenges

2024 is an important year for United Way in Dallas, as well as for North Texas and our country. As our organization continues the march toward our Centennial Anniversary, we will also be closely watching this year’s presidential race, local elections and ballot measures, as well as other significant decisions that could impact education, income and health across the region.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we encourage all North Texans to take an active role in our democracy—because it takes a healthy democracy to advance the type of meaningful change we are working to create for our neighbors in this growing region.

Panel Discussion: Jason Downing, Margaret Spellings, Mike Rawlings

On January 18 we hosted the first event in the non-partisan Tocqueville Democracy in America series—an opportunity for our most engaged donors and investors to hear from high-profile speakers from different sectors of industry, government and philanthropy about the foundational principles that support our community impact work in North Texas. We were honored to feature two leaders with civic, community, government and policy expertise—and with strong ties to North Texas—who are investing in the future of our democracy both nationally and at home:

  • Margaret Spellings, president and CEO of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
  • Mike Rawlings, former mayor of Dallas and chairman of the Texas Delegation for No Labels 2024

The event included an insightful panel discussion featuring Rawlings and Spellings and moderated by Jason Downing, chief operating officer, Client & Market Growth at Deloitte LLP and co-chair of the Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Circle. The conversation offered a rare opportunity to engage our Tocqueville audience in thought-provoking discussions on some of the most important topics on the minds of Americans, including North Texans.

More than 100 members of the $25,000 Circle of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society, as well as other distinguished guests, were in attendance. The event also included a curated art tour of Old Parkland, hosted by Michael Levy, chief executive officer of Crow Holdings.

Thank you to our 2023-2024 Tocqueville volunteer leadership for helping to make our first Democracy in America event a success:

  • Laura and Jason Downing, co-chairs, Ruth Sharp Altshuler $25,000 Tocqueville Circle
  • Erin Nealy Cox and Trey Cox, co-chairs, Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society
  • Mike Hsu, chair, Ruth Sharp Altshuler $100,000 Tocqueville Circle
  • Michelle Horton, chair, Women of Tocqueville

Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, explained that the Tocqueville Democracy in America series is designed to underscore the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, a distinguished political thinker and sociologist who conducted a comprehensive study of America in the early 1800s.

“We believe that the sense of community cooperation and belonging as articulated by Tocqueville is essential to societal progress,” she said. “United Way’s focus on creating the access and opportunity for every North Texan to thrive drives our Aspire United 2030 goals, which require significant investment that transcends the capacity of foundations, corporations, philanthropists and other partners alone.” In other words, Sampson said, “Transformational goals like ours require transformational funding—the kind of funding associated with public dollars and public policy. And we know that public funding, and public policy, is influenced by an informed and educated population who are engaged in a healthy and functioning democracy—a democracy like the one admired and espoused by Alexis de Tocqueville himself.”

“Both Laura and Jason are personally generous to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and make our work a philanthropic priority in their family,” she said. “The Downings never rest on their laurels. They push us to be excellent. They raise the bar, and they encourage us try new things, like launching the Tocqueville Democracy in America series. The Downings make our community stronger and we are eternally grateful.”

The event closed with an update on the 2023-2024 United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Campaign from Curt Farmer, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Comerica and United Way’s Annual Campaign chair. Farmer reported that, with continued community support, we are on track to achieve our fundraising goal this year, thanks in part to the recent generosity of supporters like Tom and Karen Falk and corporate partners that include PepsiCo Foods North America, and many others.

Stay tuned for details on upcoming Democracy in America events, which will be held in the lead-up to and throughout our Centennial Anniversary. Future panels will be just as compelling and will focus on how prominent business, community and media leaders are investing in longer-term efforts to guard, protect and invest in our democracy.

  • Jason Downing, The Honorable Mike Rawlings, The Honorable Margaret Spellings, Jennifer Sampson, Tom Falk

  • Curt Farmer, Alice Farmer, Michael Levy

  • Laura Downing, Jennifer Sampson, Jason Downing

  • Haviv and Ronit Ilan

  • Panel Discussion Smiling: Jason Downing, Margaret Spellings, Mike Rawlings

  • Kathy and Harlan Crow, Carol and Don Glendenning

  • Regen Horchow, Ken Hersh, Kathy Limmer

  • Karen and Tom Falk, Lorie Logan, Jennifer Sampson

  • Erin Nealy Cox, Jennifer Sampson, Trey Cox

  • Steve Durham, Sharon Young, Deedie Rose, Barbara Durham


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Longtime United Way Supporters Tom and Karen Falk Invest $5 Million to Change Lives in North Texas

A Strategic Investment in the Future of North Texas
Tom and Karen Falk are passionate philanthropists who are deeply committed to creating greater equity and opportunity for all North Texans.

“The Falks have been longtime supporters of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, believing in the power of working united to deliver measurable impact through targeted programs across North Texas,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Tom and Karen have a very mission-driven approach to their philanthropic support, and I’m confident their investment in our programs will create the opportunity for all North Texans to thrive. We are deeply honored and grateful to the Falks for this generous gift, sure to unite this community in creating secure futures for generations to come.”

The Falks are two of United Way’s most dedicated supporters, and they trust that our stewardship of their investments in our organization will have a direct and measurable impact on the people who will benefit most.

“We believe it’s important to give back to the community in a very thoughtful and purposeful way,” said Tom Falk. “An investment in the community must deliver measurable impact, and over the years, we have seen firsthand how United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has worked with its trusted network of community impact partners to shape programs that create meaningful impact and truly change lives for the better.”

“We’re honored to be able to make a significant investment in future generations of North Texans,” said Karen Falk. “The importance of an investment in United Way of Metropolitan Dallas lies in the return it delivers, and we’re confident our investment will go a long way toward helping lift up our North Texas neighbors and support a positive change in their opportunity to thrive.”

A Longstanding Commitment to Our Community
Karen and Tom have demonstrated a strong commitment to United Way of Metropolitan Dallas for decades.
Tom, former CEO of Kimberly-Clark and current Federal Reserve Board of Governors Chair, chaired our Annual Campaign in 2013, and provided ongoing support and leadership in subsequent years. During the height of the pandemic, the Falks stepped up once again, playing pivotal roles in supporting our innovative Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund and jointly serving as Annual Campaign chairs. Together, they brought in substantial investments and even dedicated their personal funds to ensure support for neighbors through the crisis.

In celebration of their support and guidance, we recognized Tom and Karen in September with the 2023 J. Erik Jonsson Award, the highest recognition United Way bestows upon a volunteer.

Be Part of Our Growing Impact
The Falks’ donation only accelerates our remarkable collective impact across North Texas. Together with change-seekers like you, we created a positive impact on nearly 1.6 million of our neighbors in the last year alone. This is truly a team effort, with thousands of individuals coming together in what can only be described as a movement.

As we continue the march to our Centennial year in 2025—when we will celebrate our first century of impact in North Texas—we are poised to create meaningful, measurable change for even more of our neighbors. In the coming months, we’ll host special events, unique volunteer opportunities and exciting ways to engage with our mission to improve access to education, income and health.

Interested in joining the Live United movement and changing lives with us? Here are three ways to be part of the change right now:

  1. Volunteer to share the joy of reading with 20,000 North Texas students on United Way Reading Day, March 1.
  2. Join us May 2 at The Pitch, our exhilarating social innovation competition where talented social entrepreneurs compete live for funding and the title Social Innovator of the Year.
  3. Sign up today for our Advocacy Alerts to stay informed and engaged on important election dates, votes that will directly impact our community and strategies for making your voice heard.

A New Year’s Message from Our CEO

A New Year’s Message from Our CEO

CEO Jennifer Sampson invites all North Texans to be part of the Live United movement

As we embark on another year of impact, I feel an incredible sense of hope and excitement. Hope for the lives that we will change—together—and excitement about the community-wide Live United movement that is growing in size, momentum and enthusiasm with each passing day. 

Over the past 12 months, we achieved great things, thanks to the support of our corporate, foundation and community partners and change-seekers like YOU. 

When third-grade reading proficiency declined as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued to expand our early literacy programming, sending free books to tens of thousands of local families and moving closer to our goal of distributing 1 million books by 2027.

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As many North Texas families struggled to save money, we served tens of thousands of workers looking for better-paying jobs and seeded hundreds of college savings accounts for low-income students.

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As our neighbors sought healthcare coverage through the Marketplace, Medicaid or CHIP, our Healthcare Navigators helped tens of thousands of families evaluate healthcare affordability, understand benefits and apply for subsidies.

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During the 140 days of the Texas Legislature’s regular session, we advocated alongside more than 900 hand-raisers to secure additional funding for early childhood development programs, to support extended Medicaid health coverage for new moms, and to educate policymakers on key topics like rental assistance and affordable housing.

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Working closely with dedicated corporate partners, we expanded our investments in Southern Dallas, launching the historic Southern Dallas Thrives Fund with the support of current and former PepsiCo employees to address the short- and long-term challenges of our neighbors in the southern sector. This is the first fund established by a corporation to support a specific community impact initiative in our 99-year history.

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You can explore more of the impact and outcomes of our programs and partnerships by reading our newly released 2022-2023 Impact Report. Change-seekers like you improved access to education, income and health for 1.6 million North Texans over the last year—creating real change that our neighbors see and feel every day. Our annual Impact Report captures our collective impact and is a catalyst for even greater impact in the new year.

With your continued support and partnership, we’ll build on the opportunities we created for North Texans to thrive by staying focused on our Aspire United 2030 goals to:

  • Education


    Increase by 50% the number of students reading on grade level by third grade.
  • Income


    Increase by 20% the number of young adults earning a living wage, adding nearly $800 million in wages per year in North Texas.
  • Health


    Increase to 96% the number of North Texans with access to affordable health care insurance.

As we kick off 2024, we are in an excellent position to continue driving progress toward these goals, ensuring that every North Texan has the access and opportunity to thrive. The new year is particularly exciting because it brings us closer to our Centennial anniversary. Over the next 12 months—and through our Centennial celebration in 2025—our events and initiatives will create meaningful impact and be bigger, more visible and more engaging than ever.

I invite you to engage with the Live United movement and see how making an investment, joining a Giving Society, contributing time as a volunteer or advocating for policy change can make a direct impact in the lives of your neighbors (and give you a terrific sense of satisfaction, too!). Be on the lookout for exciting events and new initiatives that will ensure our Live United movement will create more opportunities for North Texans than ever before.

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Reading Day volunteer

Looking for an unforgettable volunteer opportunity?


Sign up to share the joy of reading with students at schools across North Texas on United Way Reading Day, March 1. Visit to learn more.

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Love a little friendly competition?


Join us May 2 at The Pitch, our exhilarating social innovation competition where talented social entrepreneurs compete live for funding and the title Social Innovator of the Year.

Save Your Spot

Eager to engage in local public policy efforts?

2024 is not only a presidential election year, it will also include opportunities for you to weigh in on important voter issues that directly impact our community. Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts to stay informed and engaged.


This is just a quick preview of what’s ahead. Stay tuned for more ways to engage with this important community impact work. As we continue the march toward our Centennial year, we have abundant opportunities to change lives in North Texas. Together, we will create generational change for North Texans, ensuring that more students graduate ready to succeed, more workers achieve financial stability, and more families access the health resources necessary to thrive. We create meaningful, measurable change because you unite with us.

In closing, I wish you a happy and healthy new year. Thank you for your commitment to our mission and for being an important part of our movement for change. You make this work possible. Thanks to your passion, dedication and support, this will be a year to remember for United Way—and for North Texas—as we work side-by-side to make our region a better, more equitable place for everyone to call home.

Jennifer Sampson

Jennifer Sampson signature

McDermott-Templeton President and CEO
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

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