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Financial Empowerment Centers help people handle money matters

Counseling services available to anyone regardless of income

SAN ANTONIO – In an effort to help people get their finances straight and save money, the Department of Human Services has set up Financial Empowerment Centers around San Antonio.

The centers are designed to help people get on the right financial path. Counseling services are available to residents regardless of their income.

"We have clients (who) come in with a bundle of issues, so it is picking them apart, then prioritizing what needs to be handled first before we can move on to maybe the ultimate goal," said Angela Martinez-Alvarado, who oversees the centers.

Martinez-Alvarado said seeking financial help relieves stress.

"If someone is not financially healthy then you start seeing the stress, and it just snowballs from there," Martinez-Alvarado said.

The centers help with a variety of financial needs, including learning how to balance a checkbook, prioritize bills and save money and learning about credit scores and how to improve them.

David Pliska had a low credit score because of high medical bills. A financial counselor helped him manage the bills, which helped change his credit score.

"(I) met with her, and in a matter of two months she turned my credit around," Pliska said. "It is now 735 from below 600."

Financial Empowerment Centers have helped about 7,000 San Antonians, which has resulted in more than 21,000 session hours.

"With those numbers, we estimate we have helped those residents reduce their debt by more that $9 million," said Roland Martinez, city of San Antonio Human Services.

Martinez-Alvarado said most financial situations can be resolved.

"Sometimes when (clients) come in, they might think their problem is beyond repair," she said. "And when they sit down with one of our staff (and we tell them) 'Absolutely, we can help with that,' they cry with joy."

Pliska agrees that the centers can do wonders for those with financial problems.

"If you are struggling in any way, shape or form -- credit, bills, finances -- they can help you," he said.

Counselors are located at Claude Black Community Center and The Neighborhood Place, in addition to Bazan, Westfall, Cortez and Carver libraries.

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