Avery Ellfeldt

Bernadette Demientieff hails from a region marked by pristine panoramas, droves of Arctic wildlife and decades of controversy. For millennia, her people, the native Gwich'in Nation, have guarded the precious swath of Alaskan land today known by many as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The day before Ashley Baker turned 16 years old, she moved into a Dallas motel with her mom. They were newly homeless.

Sandy, Ashley's mother, then 44, had just left a troubled marriage, scraped together what money she could and left home with Ashley.

For the next two and a half years, they were homeless. They recounted the challenges they faced during a recent StoryCorps interview in Dallas.

"One of the first places that we lived was [an] InTown Suites Hotel," said Sandy, now 54. "And there was nothing sweet about it. It was crazy bad."

In 1967, when Janie Bush was 19 and discovered that she was pregnant, she decided to place her baby for adoption.

But when Janie's daughter — whom she named Tracey Jane — was born with spina bifida, a potentially fatal birth defect, the planned adoptive family backed out.

Janie couldn't afford the expensive specialized care that Tracey's condition required. A social worker told Janie that her daughter might die if the child didn't receive appropriate medical care and that a state residence might be her best option.