Program organizer talks about helping people rise out of poverty
Lori Jurado works for Community Action Partnership in Coeur d’Alene, the lead organization in an ongoing community-based initiative called Circles. In Circles, low-income people formulate their own plans to work their way out of poverty by forming relationships with “allies” – middle-class community members. Jurado, who is organizing the next Circles “Getting Ahead” course, set to begin March 1, talks about this innovative poverty-reduction program.
Q.What is the biggest misconception about people in poverty?
A.That they are lazy, and they want to stay in the welfare system. Any one of us could find ourselves without (money) from divorce, death or health issues. Any one of those can push people into poverty.
Q.Describe the Getting Ahead course.
A.It is the prerequisite class for those who want to be involved in Circles. They learn about the hidden rules of (socioeconomic) class, and they assess their own resources. They have to have the ability to increase their income, and they need to be motivated.
Q.How can community members get involved in Circles?
A.By becoming an ally. We ask (allies) to be open and willing to share their experiences. It’s an equal relationship.
Q.What is the commitment for allies?
A.We ask them to be able to meet once a month, and we also ask for an 18-month commitment.
Q.How is federal stimulus money used in the program?
A.To support the classes – for workbooks, child care and for “barrier removal.” For instance, if someone needs gas to get to and from work or to look for jobs.
I’m a single mom of five, and I have faced many of the same barriers. When I first moved here 10 years ago, my youngest was 5. I had a sister living here. Then she moved. I didn’t really have family support. A (work) supervisor had knowledge of what resources were available here. She was a very compassionate person, and I didn’t feel judged by her. Knowing where to turn was huge.
Q.Why is isolation a problem for people in poverty?
A.You get depressed. Things pile up. Sometimes, you can’t go to family. Or your family might tell you to do this or that. No one likes to be told what to do. Circles creates a safe environment for people to share their emotions and their stories. Everyone is on equal footing.
Q.What have you seen Circles do for people in poverty?
A.When they first enter Circles, they may be kind of shy, but by the time they’ve been there a few months, they are not afraid to speak up. One of our (participants) shared how she felt like she was hitting potholes all the time. She works hard and goes to school now. Just seeing the growth is amazing to me.