In the second episode of Hard Earned, we meet 20-year-old Hilton Kennedy III and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Diana Gonzalez.

Born in the US and raised in Mexico, as a US citizen he cannot work in the country where he grew up. Besides, he says, "In the US I have the opportunity to be more."

He lives with Diana in a one-bedroom garage in a trailer park in the heart of Silicon Valley and juggles two full-time jobs, working 80-90 hours a week to support the two of them.

With Diana now pregnant with twins, Hilton is trying to figure out a better place where the four of them can one day live. But with his combined salary of $42,000 a year, including a job at a cafeteria on the Google campus, Hilton is already stretched to pay the rent, living expenses, and to send money to his mother in Mexico. 

In this episode, Emilia Stancati, 50, a first generation American whose parents immigrated from Italy, looks back on her past. Emilia, who works as a waitress in Chicago, talks about the drug addiction that disrupted her life and her relationship with her daughter for nearly six years. 

Meet the Hard Earners - The working-class people at the heart of our six-part documentary series [Al Jazeera

De'Jaun "DJ" Jackson, 23, an employee at the pharmacy chain retailer Walgreens and his girlfriend Takita Akins have had to move in with DJ's mother after their apartment in a nearby Chicago neighbourhood was burglarised.

DJ and Takita are intent on saving enough money to move to a safer neighbourhood. "It was a huge blow when they came in our house and took all our stuff," DJ says. "Us moving here to start all over again."

Still, DJ is motivated to find a new home, and continues to look for better-paid jobs before starting his shift at Walgreens in the morning. He says "being a man and can't put my family in a home that they deserve, that's a problem for me. I need them to have their own space."

We also see how Jose Merino, 32, a clerical worker and an Iraq war veteran and his girlfriend Elizabeth Bonta, 27, a high school counselor, are trying to secure a first-time mortgage.

In a rare moment of frustration, after having a home-loan knocked back, Elizabeth says: "You know, I didn't drink before 21. I didn't end up pregnant in teenage years like my counterparts did. I did everything right … It's still like there's no way out. This house is a way out."

As we follow our characters' hardship and occasional good fortune in Hard Earned, we see how these couples and families are proud and determined to make it on their own to secure a better more stable future.

Source: Al Jazeera