Zenaida Merlin and her business partner speak at the opening ceremony of the SparkPoint Center on Mission and 19th streets.

The fight against poverty in the Mission gained strength this morning with the opening of San Francisco’s first SparkPoint Center at Plaza Adelante on 19th and Mission streets, community organizers said.

“With one in five Bay Area families struggling to make ends meet, expanding SparkPoint is an important part of United Way’s efforts to cut poverty in half in the Bay Area by 2020,” said United Way of the Bay Area CEO Anne Wilson.

On Friday, seven neighborhood non-profits announced a new SparkPoint center that will allow them to pool their resources and help those in need achieve financial stability. The collaboration includes Mission Economic Development Agency, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, Jewish Vocational Services (JVS), Mission Hiring Hall, United Way of the Bay Area and Women’s Action to Gain Economic Stability.

Sparkpoint will offer a variety of services to clients. Each client will get a personal coach to help them choose appropriate services for their needs. If a client wants to start a small business, they will offer financial education, micro-enterprise development, digital literacy and tax preparation.

If they’re having problems with housing, they can offer first-time home-buyer assistance, foreclosure prevention, tenant counseling and eviction prevention. If they’re unemployed they can also offer job search help, training and placement services.

“It takes a sustained journey to put a dent in poverty,” said Ed Center, of the United Way, one of the seven organizations that comprise Sparkpoint.

“We support that journey, by having different types of economic services in one spot,” he added.

The SparkPoint center at Plaza Adelante is the tenth center to open in the Bay Area since the first center opened in Oakland three years ago.

Before the opening Friday morning the center had been in pilot phase for several months. During that time, a child care center was added to take care of client’s children during coaching. A database for collecting information on client’s progress was also optimized.

Zenaida Merlin came to SparkPoint several months ago and was able to get help to create a business plan, build a webpage, build credit, and do her taxes.

“I had a dream to start a catering service but didn’t know where to begin,” said Merlin at Friday’s opening.

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