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Hope Springs Eternal
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Fall 2000

Hope Springs Eternal

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It is a warm, late-July afternoon and 12 mothers, more than 25 children and several Hope Street staffers are waiting patiently on Figueroa Street for the DASH Downtown shuttle to take them to the California Science Center at Exposition Park. It's field-trip day at Hope Street, a monthly outing for those in Even Start, and after the museum the group will be off to a local public library.

"Typically our field trips involve free events and using public transportation," explains Segovia. "The idea, then, is that this is something families can do independently of the program."

Clearly self-sufficiency is one of the primary goals of Hope Street. From the moment families are accepted to the center, they make clear-cut goals to work toward that are identified in a family-partnership agreement, a contract of sorts, with the home visitor.

"It is like that old saying about teaching a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," says Segovia. "We're always teaching people how to fish. We want families to be able to find their own ways of developing and strengthening themselves."

In fact, self-sufficiency is exactly what Hope Street has attained. Originally UCLA wrote the grants funding Hope Street and subcontracted California Hospital staff to implement the program; that shifted in 1998 and the hospital now writes the grants and subcontracts for UCLA staff, including Halfon, who is faculty adviser to Hope Street, and Kropenske.

"Philosophically, it's fitting that the university helps to obtain resources for the community and then, once those have been established, comes back and continues to assist in an evaluative, development role while allowing the program to take root and develop in the community with community leadership and community direction," says Kropenske.

Community building - another of Hope Street's missions - then becomes possible once families become self-sufficient and, thus, able to get involved in, contribute to and help shape their communities.

One way is through a policy council comprised of elected parent and community representatives that helps to make decisions, approve budgets and policies, hire staff and plan programs. The Hope Street Youth Center, for example, came about because the council noted a need for more services for school-age kids. "So that's really how our youth center was developed, because parents really asked for that as a service," explains Kropenske, a public-health nurse who, in her 17 years at UCLA, has developed several innovative service programs that include the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit follow-up clinic at UCLA and Olive View hospitals and the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect home-visitation program. "The ownership of this project really belongs to the community."

(Of Kropenske, Halfon says, "She is a modern-day Jane Addams and Hope Street is the Hull House for the 21st century.") "Parents have gotten involved. They've set goals together. They've envisioned the difference that can happen in this community," says Cecilia Samartín '83, mental-health coordinator at Hope Street. "Once they began investing themselves in this way, in this center, that began to expand their community involvement. Parents have been involved in community gardens and clean-up efforts throughout the community, and housing efforts and crime-prevention efforts."

Another way Hope Street fosters community building is through a state-funded child-care network, which provides assistance to community members interested in running day-care centers from their homes. By providing support, training, workshops, toys, books and other materials, Hope Street helps entrepreneurial-minded community members start their own businesses, while also giving Hope Street working parents an alternative source of subsidized day care to the Child Development Center, which has a wait list of up to a year.

"We're affording these women the ability to stay in the community, to build businesses, to develop professionally and really to take a leadership role," says Sherk, who coordinates the service.

The success of the Hope Street Center is born out by some hard statistics. For example, the rate of employment among participating families has leaped from 45 percent to more than 90 percent, says Melinda Beswick, president of California Hospital Medical Center.

"Hope Street," she says, "is the lynchpin of many of the community-benefit programs that we host at this hospital. Access to services, be it early-childhood education, housing or job training, is fragmented and difficult to negotiate for any family, but Hope Street provides a focal point that enables people to take advantage of what's available and get ahead."

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