Local interest in bringing poverty assistance program to Corwall

Organizers of the Bridges out of Poverty workshop were hoping to attract about 50 to 60 participants to their workshop on Wednesday. Instead, 140 residents of the area showed up, smashing their expectations.

“This has happened in Cornwall in the past,” said Carilyne Hébert, executive director of the Social Development Council of Cornwall and Area (SDC), the organization that hosted the event. “The registration itself was overwhelming, which clearly shows that front-line staff in our community see that there is a need and they want to better understand and support it.

“They want to help (people) out of poverty.”

The SDC, along with several community agencies, is currently working on bringing a Circles Canada chapter to the Cornwall and SDG region.

Circles Canada is a transformative collaborative organization committed to the elimination of poverty by harnessing the power of a caring communities working together. According to the organization’s website, Circles Canada “helps people transition out of poverty by building intentional, supportive, reciprocal, befriending relationships.”

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The first step in order to bring the chapter to the area is to host a Bridges out of Poverty workshop.

“It really brings the whole community on the same page, the same level, when it comes to poverty reduction in the community,” said Hébert. “This is really step one in doing that.”

According to Hébert, 12 per cent of Cornwall’s population currently lives under the threshold of poverty as defined by the low-income cutoff.

The federal government’s definition is based on the market basket measure — which states that a family lives in poverty if it does not have enough income to purchase a specific basket of goods and services in its community.

Two facilitators — Martine Creasor, a caseworker with the County of Lambton and Kim Godin, a Circles Canada co-ordinator from the County of Lambton, took part in the workshop, detailing their views on poverty. Both women are trained Bridges out of Poverty facilitators and were invited to participate in the event.

“What they’re taking about today is how to exit poverty,” said Hébert. “We don’t necessarily want to continue supporting those in poverty to continue living in poverty. We want to pull them out of it.”

The next step in bringing a Circles Canada chapter to Cornwall is to host a Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’ By workshop. The latter will aimed at residents currently receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits.

“These would be for folks who are ready to take on the leadership of their lives and come out of poverty” said Hébert. “It’s a 15-week workshop to help them sort of reassess their lives, look inwards, see what their situation is like and help them set goals.”

There is still no word on when that workshop might take place, with Hébert saying that some staff members are just finishing their training on the matter. The graduation of participants from the getting ahead workshop will signal the beginning of Circles Canada in the region.

Hébert also added that if all things work well in Cornwall, the local Circles Canada’s reach could extend all the way to Dundas and Glengarry.

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