The goal of Circles:
We believe no one should live in poverty. Families and communities can take charge of their destinies. And if given the right tools and support, economic stability can be achieved. Through an approach that combines strategies and services along with the individualized support of our dedicated staff, volunteers and the resources of organizations and communities, we can create an environment that educates, empowers and equips our community members to move up and out of poverty successfully.
- Provide practical and emotional support.
- Assist with complex issues and solve problems together.
- Increase the “social capital” of people living in low-income situations.
- Share with the community the very real barriers holding people in poverty.
- Walk with people in poverty and support positive changes in their lives.
- Put into practice the theories learned in Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead.
What is Circles?
Circles is a community-based initiative that creates relationships across economic boundaries. It connects people of low-income who have attended the Getting Ahead program with people of middle and upper-income who have attended a full-day Bridges Out of Poverty workshop, on a weekly basis, in a casual and purposeful way.
At each meeting, all Circles members volunteer to enjoy a meal together, connect, share and learn from each other. Members form long-lasting authentic relationships built on mutual respect and increase the social capital for all involved.
definition: social capital is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.
Circles is a community of people in varying states of economic stability brought together in intentional supportive relationships of reciprocity composed of:
Leaders: an individual or family working to get out of poverty who has completed the Getting Ahead workshop. Leaders are program participants who provide grassroots feedback about the multiple systemic barriers that keep people stuck in poverty, while building their own resources and moving toward the goal of sustainable employment.
Allies: One to four middle class individuals who have completed a Bridges Out of Poverty workshop and are willing to engage in an authentic, intentional friendships built on mutual respect with the Leader (and their family).
Circles Coach: The Circles Coach supports Circles Leaders and Allies in fine-tuning personalized action plans. The Circles coach is a paid position that has received specialized training to support and manage the Circles program.
Simcoe County Circles Advisory Group: The SCCAG is a volunteer advisory board that includes people from various economic classes and sectors who are committed to helping the Simcoe County Circles program run successfully. The SCCAG meets quarterly. Please CLICK HERE for more information and see the Event Calendar for the next SCCAG meeting.
The Simcoe County District School Board in partnership with the County of Simcoe’s Ontario Works Department, was awarded a grant from the Local Poverty Reduction Fund to launch the much awaited Circles initiative in Simcoe County. The initiative, which is based out of Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay, will help people break the cycle of poverty, find good jobs and become financially self-sufficient.
The Circles initiative will be available to the community for a minimum of three years and is composed of two programs (Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead), whose successful participants feed into the Circles initiative.
The Simcoe County District School Board in partnership with the County of Simcoe is committed to engaging and supporting willing members of Simcoe County to participate in the Circles Canada initiative and will be offering continuous Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead sessions throughout the entire project to make sure that the Circles initiative is able to thrive.
Evaluation of the Simcoe County Circles initiative
Faculty from Lakehead University and the University of Calgary will be jointly evaluating our project. Using a rigorous quasi-experimental design, they will be able to describe the impact that the Circles initiative has had on engagement in education, employment and training, and rates of high school graduation. This work will directly impact the lives of youth and single parents experiencing inter-generational poverty, in the rural, north region of Simcoe County (Tiny Township, Tay Township, Midland and Penetanguishene), moving them toward employment and income security.
What people are saying about Circles
Crystal, a Circles Leader from Sarnia-Lambton shared with us this statement:
“Circles saved my life. For the first time I felt like I mattered and that I could do so much more than just survive. I thought for so long that I would be stuck in poverty. I thought there was no way out. Now with Circles I know I CAN make my dreams come true. I feel empowered and able to support my family. Actually just being around people who believed that my dreams could come true changed everything!”
The Bridges Out of Poverty / Circles program in London, ON created a powerful and poignant video for the Pillar Community Innovation Awards that specifically highlights the value and integrity of the Circles Initiative.
Together we are changing mindsets and as a result building strong resilient communities in Simcoe County and throughout Ontario.
How YOU can get involved
Are you a Community Member interested in learning more about:
- Donating your time, money or services to Simcoe County Circles initiative
- Becoming part of the Simcoe County Circles Advisory Group
- Have any questions about Bridges Out of Poverty, Getting Ahead or Circles?