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Squaring the Circle: Helping individuals break free of poverty

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Marco Vigliotti

Renee Flynn knows all too well how difficult it can be to escape the vicious cycle of poverty.

Born into what she calls “generational poverty,” Flynn was kicked out of her alcoholic mother’s house at the age of 16 and fell in with a rough crowd, leading to drug experimentation and a string of abusive relationships.

But, she also knows there’s a way out.

Flynn credits the local community support program Circles for helping turn her life around and fulfilling a dream this summer of owning her own home.

Circles, she explains, connects “allies,” well-established middle-class individuals, with “leaders,” those requiring assistance to fulfill their plan of getting out of poverty.

Allies help encourage those in poverty to meet their goals by providing support in a number of ways, including helping out with education, transportation and employment.

Now, Flynn works as one of those supportive “established” middle class people aiding those in need.

“It’s an amazing program,” she said of Circles, which she has been a part of for five years.

“The group is amazing. We help motivate one another,” she said during an anti-poverty rally in Sarnia last week.

Flynn suffered through a turbulent childhood, facing physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather and, at the age of 9, assuming the responsibility of raising her brothers from her alcoholic mother.

After joining the military and becoming pregnant herself, Flynn began to work towards improving her situation.

Yet, she faced setbacks.

Flynn entered and then had to escape a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a friend of her one of her brothers.

Then, at the age of 29, Flynn, now with three children and working for minimum wage as a housekeeper, made the move to go back and complete high school, leaning on support from the Circles program.

This eventually led to a new job as a safety coordinator. Soon, she was off government assistance and now works with Hydro One.

“You don’t have to be product of your environment and we all have a choice to change,” Flynn said told an Oct. 10 rally outside Sarnia City Hall, which called for greater assistance in the fight against poverty.

Speakers at the noon-hour event, which drew more than 100 people, pressed for greater governmental support.

The fight against poverty, however, appears to getting tougher.

According to the Lambton County’s Nutritious Food Basket survey, which compared the lowest prices of 67 food items at nine local grocery stores, it costs just over $835 per month to meet a “nutritionally adequate” diet. That total represents a 7.8 per cent increase from last year.

Flynn, though, stresses there is a way out, especially with the support offered by the community.

“I encourage people to seek out programs like Circles to get the support that they need,” she added.

Poverty Rally

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