Making Ends Meet

Air date: 
Thursday, February 3, 2005
This piece was a part of the series, Stories of Money, produced by Alex along with Amy Drozdowska. It aired on WBEZ and on This American Life.

What happens when you’re unwilling to let go of a lifestyle you’re no longer able to afford? Bill Thompson grew up in a well-to-do family. He was accustomed to having money or always getting everything he wanted. As an adult, Thompson became a commodities trader, and with his family bought a home on Chicago’s North Shore. But at the age of 35 he lost his job. Eventually bills couldn’t be paid. The bank was threatening to foreclose on his house, and it created tensions at home. Then things started unraveling, and Thompson, well, tried to make ends meet.


Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to peer into America’s heart.

Separated by a river, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are two Michigan towns that are geographically close, yet worlds apart. St. Joseph is a prosperous, predominately white lakeshore community while Benton Harbor is impoverished and predominately black. When the body of Eric McGinnis, a black teenage boy from Benton Harbor, is found in the river that separates the towns, relations between the two communities grow increasingly strained as longheld misperceptions and attitudes surface. 

There Are No Children Here chronicles two years in the lives of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, struggling to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect. 

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