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Utah Valley Circle Initiative is helping those living under the poverty line change their economic outlook.

At the Adventist Community Center of Provo, people gather for a meal, but the occasion is not a church supper. It’s a weekly evening meeting of the Utah Circles Initiative who work together towards a goal; getting out of poverty. Utah Valley Circles Initiative is part of a national program that focuses on helping poverty-stricken families improve their standard of living and become self-reliant. The group offers training on the causes of poverty, hidden rules of economic class and how to improve social capacity among other courses. Members of the middle-class and upper-middle class volunteer as Allies of the families. Each family is designated a Circle Leader, the head of the family or matriarch.

Circle Leaders, Shari and Anthony, explain what it’s like to live under the poverty line. “It was rough, especially with little ones.” The couple recall the dire situations they were in because 10 of the 11 years they’ve spent together have been under the poverty line.

Circle Leader, Gaylene, remembers how impossible it felt when she was struggling and in “survival mode”. She thought there was no end to the poverty she and her family faced. Holding back tears she asked herself, “How do you make that dream, to take your family to DisneyLand, happen? Do I have enough money saved up to retire?”

  • Utah has 24 percent of its population making less than $35,000 per year and affordable housing is in short supply
  • 6 out of 10 Utah residents can not find affordable housing options while public housing wait lists can extend over the course of two years
  • While unemployment is at less than three percent, finding employment with a livable wage has proven to be difficult to find which creates a new class struggle, the working poor

Jim and Kim, Circle Allies, believe in the work being done with Utah Valley Circle Initiative. They both express an understanding that the support they’re putting into the program won’t change the world over night but change will come slowly. “It’s not changing all of Provo. I can’t brag about anything I have done, but I can say that I have touched one person, and hopefully that person has been touched by me,” says Kim.

Dinners are served weekly to the members of the Utah Valley Circle Initiative and are provided by church groups and businesses in the community. Child care is provided so that the Circle Leaders and Allies can take courses. Courses provided intend to teach: basic job skills, financial skills, communication skills (work and home settings), as well as networking in order to improve their economic statuses.

To find out more about the Utah Circles Initiative, visit them here: communityactionprovo.org/circles

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