To advance systemic change, each Circles chapter has a Resource Team called the “Big View Team.” It includes community members representing local government, schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and Circle Leaders, all of whom bring distinct perspectives. The Big View Team tackles issues such as affordable housing, childcare, transportation, healthcare, financial literacy, quality jobs, and the problem of the Cliff Effect — i.e., when rising wages cut off benefits, resulting in a net income loss.

This three-part series offers some impressive snapshots of current, past, and future Big View teamwork at the chapter level.


Health

Poverty remains a major factor in bad public health outcomes and a barrier to healthcare of every kind, from routine family wellness to emergency medical treatment. This relationship is financial: the poor often cannot afford the food, shelter, and treatments necessary to maintain baseline health. This is especially true in a society that makes junk food and “easy” chemical fixes universally available, yet fails to educate the broader public on healthful practices. This system routinely denies domestic caregivers—predominantly women— the agency and information we need to make social services work for us. For instance, many low-income elderly people with and without insurance must choose between buying the medicine or the food they need. Regardless of age, rural and inner-city residents may not have ready access to health or other resources because of service gaps and corporate-engineered “deserts.”

Circles Mid-Ohio Valley, WV

Circles Mid-Ohio Valley (MOV) recently partnered with Westbrook Health Services to offer a free, two-week March Mental Health Wellness series. This training is designed to  equip recovery and mental health agency staff and family members with tools to identify warning signs of mental health issues, know how to help, and grow their mental health self-awareness. Skill trainings included: 

  • How to spot symptoms of mental health or substance use crisis, and how to use the ALGEE action plan through Mental Health First Aid Training.
  • How to prepare for any escalated situation with the Right Response Workshop Training.
  • SafeTALK training on how to spot someone having thoughts of suicide and connect them to professional help.

Circles Johnson County, IN

Food insecurity is more than lacking access to healthy ingredients; it also thrives in communities that have historically been denied public education in basic cooking and nutrition. A Circles Johnson County representative said, “Our Circles Leaders have shared that they would like more info on healthy, cost-effective meals, which is exactly what Cooking Matters (a program of the Indy Hunger Network) covers. They recently paid a second visit to Circles Johnson County to make black bean and veggie tortillas! They also send Leaders home with groceries to make the dish at home.”

Such a fun, healthy, and delicious night!

Wilkes Circles of Care, NC

Wilkes Circles of Care Culinary Connections has been meeting with Circles youth for four years.

During their time in the Circles of Care program, young people learn cooking skills, healthy whole-food choices, meal planning, and kitchen safety. Each culinary class is accompanied by a social, emotional, and life skill lesson.

In March 2024, their Circles youth (led by Chef Audra) prepared a 5-course meal for the entire Wilkes Circles weekly meeting with over 55 people in attendance.

We are proud to support the Wilkes Circles’ multi-generational approach, which values youth, their skills, their food security, and their well-being as essential to ending the cycle of poverty for good.


Housing

A troubling 2024 report finds that the lowest-income renters in the U.S. face a shortage of 7.3 million affordable, available rental homes. As a result, nearly three-quarters of renters grappling with poverty face additional drains, spending more than half their income on rent and accounting for nearly 70% of all severely cost-burdened renters in the U.S.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, only 36 affordable and available rental units exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. Additionally, affordable housing stock has declined by 60%. 42% of unhoused people have jobs but can’t afford shelter. Between 2.5-3.5 million people are currently unhoused in the U.S.

Circles Northwest Arkansas

Circles NWA hosted an event called “Home Is Where the Hardship Is” to spotlight real experiences of people and families struggling to secure stable housing in Arkansas. Panelists included Circle Leaders Berenice Melchor, Christina Mansfield, James Jones, Jessica Olivera, and Thelishia Conley.

During the event, organizers called for their community to commit to the change needed to pursue both affordable housing and increased protection for renters.

Watch the live event recording and download an e-copy of Circles NWA’s booklet.

Circles Johnson County, IN

Circles Johnson County (with Bridges Alliance) is partnering with the county’s chamber, Aspire Economic Development, to build solutions that address residents’ need for more affordable housing options. The organization hopes to further conversations in Johnson County about poverty and housing via social media posts and informative multimedia content.

“You’ll see employers saying on Facebook, ‘Well, we’re closed because we don’t have anybody to finish this shift,’ or ‘Dollar General had to close because they don’t have any employees,’” Circles Johnson County volunteer Amanda Ott said. “The reality is that those people can’t afford to live in Franklin, so why are they going to drive 30 minutes to work in those places?”

Circles Johnson County aims to spark a conversation for change and get the county’s stakeholders (e.g., government officials and local developers) on board. Their goal is to create a housing coalition made up of community leaders, nonprofits, and volunteers. The group would work to create programs eligible for funding by Federal Community Development Block Grants in order to address affordable housing gaps in the county.

Read more in the Johnson County Daily Journal.

Circles Salt Lake, UT
Circles Laurel Highlands Region, PA

Circles Salt Lake drove the creation and passing of the “Truth In Renting Bill,” which protects renters from being ambushed by hidden fees that weren’t disclosed at the time they signed a lease. The bill also requires landlords to disclose up front any restrictions against renting to people with criminal records or poor credit histories before pocketing the application fees. Circles Laurel Highlands Region discovered that banks won’t issue loans to potential builders because of the limited infrastructure (water, sewage, etc.) in their rural area. Circles participants are testifying to policy makers and community leaders to communicate their urgent need for affordable housing. Some Circles chapters have also connected participants to COVID-related government funds for eviction protection.

Circles Palm Beach County, FL

This year, Petty Capital Realty has partnered with Circles Palm Beach County to host multiple events designed to teach aspiring homeowners the steps to purchasing a home for the first time.

Circles Central Florida

In April 2024, Circles Central Florida joined other nonprofits and community leaders to speak out about the rights of the homeless, as the Supreme Court began its hearing on the case of Johnson vs. Grant Pass. 

This landmark case will decide whether cities may legally  punish people for sleeping outside—even if there are no safe shelter options. 

Martha Are, CEO of Homeless Services Network, stated: “Half of people [staying at shelters] are employed, but don’t make enough to afford housing. We believe that no one should be punished [for] where they sleep when they have no other choice.”

Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.


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