Sarnia Observer: Local Circles Program Turning Heads

by SHAWN JEFFORDS (link to article)

Toronto might be able to learn a thing or two from Sarnia-Lambton about battling poverty.

Just a month after the official launch here of the Circles poverty reduction strategy, Metro Toronto Literacy wants to implement the program in the capital city, said local co-ordinator Gayle Montgomery.

"It's really great news. We're being seen as provincial leaders in poverty reduction," she said.

Lambton County was the first Canadian municipality to adopt the program 2008. Circles allies people in the middle class with families in poverty to help them overcome life obstacles.

It's expected to help 75 welfare recipients within three years at a cost of $227,000 annually.

Montgomery met the Toronto group at an education and literacy conference, where she delivered a keynote address. And Toronto isn't the only interested centre.

"We've had some talks about taking the program to the federal level. I hope we're on the cusp of something very big here," she said.

The local Circles group has had success by making systematic changes to eliminate barriers within the local social services network, Montgomery said. The group has been meeting with officials at the local Early Years Centre and Lambton College to work on programming.

Circles will launch a website soon, and organizers hope it will both link the community to the program and provide helpful information to participants.



"We just got started and it feels like we've already come a long way," Montgomery said.

Circles Coach Mary-Lou Robb said it's encouraging watching the relationships between the leaders, the name given to individuals in poverty, and their allies.

The Circles leaders are taking charge and creating their own initiatives, such as the Parents Standing Together, a Kathleen Avenue tenant's association.

"Watching those relationships has been amazing," Robb said. "It's starting to take on a life of its own."

The Circles Poverty Reduction Program is looking for volunteers. For more information contact [email protected]