SparkPoint program to assist families in overcoming poverty

HopeLink of Southern Nevada plans to deal with the long-term effects of struggling families with its new program SparkPoint of Henderson, started by the United Way of the Bay Area.

“We look at everything it takes to move families from poverty to stability,” said Karen Kyger, the executive director for HopeLink, 178 Westminster Way. “It’s a long path with a lot of hard work.”

For more than 20 years, the organization has assisted low-income people with programs and services that attempt to prevent homelessness and offer self-
sufficiency.

Kyger said one of her goals has always been to help families stabilize over a longer period of time. SparkPoint of Henderson is her solution.

Families often aren’t financially positioned to prepare for unseen events or emergencies, such as getting a flat tire.

In those situations, families might have to choose between paying a bill or fixing the car.

“They have to choose between paying the rent or getting new tires,” Kyger said. “It’s a fine line, and we need to get them on a wider road.”

SparkPoint of Henderson is an integrated service model that looks at long-term goals to help a family.

“Our families don’t identify themselves becoming successful,” she said. “We need to change that.”

Kyger said she wants families to see that they can go from a bad situation or constant struggle and achieve upward mobility.

“It’s possible,” Kyger said.

Kyger met the SparkPoint team from the Bay Area at a conference in Northern Nevada. After researching the group, she asked if HopeLink could bring the branded center to Henderson.

“This is the first SparkPoint center outside Northern California,” Kyger said.

SparkPoint helps applicants access anything from job training to credit remediation. Depending on the circumstance, case managers could help clients re-establish trust in banks — broken trust could have an adverse effect on a family’s income.

Kyger said on average, families spend $2,000 per year on cashing paychecks at check-cashing or credit-lending businesses because they don’t have bank accounts.

This is one item of many the program would look at.

Each person would have a case manager and a volunteer mentor who goes step by step with them to ensure that they not only take the right steps but also are motivated along the way.

“It’s good to have a cheering squad guiding you through this,” Kyger said.

She said many families are desperate to get their lives back on track whether it is through repairing damaged credit or finding a better job.

Kyger said 44 percent of Nevada households have assessed poverty.

“That means they don’t own a car or a house or anything substantial,” she said.

She said in Nevada, 68 percent of people have sub-prime credit, 19 percent of people have low- or minimum-wage jobs, 25 percent are uninsured and only 23 percent have a college education.

“With all those things combined, it can be difficult to go forward,” she said. “I think it’s time a resource center steps up and tries to do something about this.”

One problem HopeLink has identified is many of its clients being underemployed.

“They can never get ahead without better employment,” she said.

SparkPoint would partner people with agencies that provide job training so they can take steps to getting back on their feet.

“I think it takes components of a family resource center to pull this off,” she said.

Kyger encourages Henderson families to look into eligibility for SparkPoint.

In its pilot phase, about 12 families are signed up for the program.

As donations and volunteers increase, Kyger hopes to take more clients. If the financing is there, Kyger hopes one day to offer the program to all of Southern Nevada.

HopeLink is a one-stop shop resource center where people can find help they need directly or be referred to the place they need to be.

HopeLink continues to offer other resources from nutrition education programs to helping domestic violence survivors get resettled.

“We are one of the best-kept secrets in Nevada,” said Craig Sanford, a lead case manager.

The organization offers rent and utility assistance for low-income people in the following ZIP codes: 89002, 89005, 89011, 89012, 89014, 89015, 89044, 89052, 89074, 89122, 89123 and 89183.

For more information, visit link2hope.org or call 702-566-0576.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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