(NEWS4UTAH – SALT LAKE CITY, UT) – Even though Utah one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, did you know that we are still talking about nearly 300,000 people?

What can be done to help?  It might just be as simple as being a friend. Ashley Hoopes, Executive Director of Circles Salt Lake; “Circles is this great initiative that matches families in poverty with friends who help cheerlead them on their journey out of poverty.”

The eight Circle groups in Utah are building communities to fight poverty. We met single Dad, Justin.

Through the help of Circles, Justin was connected with Hogan Construction and balances work and being a single Dad. He is trying to fight intergenerational poverty and build a better life.

Justin told us; “My childhood was tough. My grandmother raised me. My Mom passed away when I was about 2 years old. So being in poverty, I’ve always been labeled that. Right now, is the time for me to try to get out of it. That’s why I’m in this program. To get my daughter and myself to another level.”

Ask yourself this question – If you lost your job tomorrow, how long could you pay your bills?

It might not be as long as you think. As a child; Circles leader, Alex, stayed with her Dad after her parents divorced. Her father had medical issues and that took its toll. Alex explained, “I was only homeless once, I ended up losing my house. I lost my job. I ended up going there because I couldn’t pay my bills. I went to the shelter for a while. I stayed at the Salt Lake shelter and the Midvale shelter.”

Everybody needs a circle of friends to listen to them, not to fix them, change them or heal them. Just listen.

That’s the idea at Circles. People from different walks of time share a meal, become friends and share thoughts and goals. Those friends then work together to make connections that can help improve lives.
When you’ve lost your support system, sometimes you need a circle of friends. Justin appreciates that support. “Somebody that cares. These people care. They see what’s going on out there. I see the heart, you know. “

Alex agrees; “One thing they helped me do is see that there are people out there that care. They help me feel more confident. I can do this. I can achieve things and become a better person and they help push me through it.”

Together we can triumph over our trials. These are stories that deserve to be told. These are Utah Caring Stories. I’m Doug Jessop.

From CBS News: The Circles USA® Campaign is a transformational approach that partners volunteers and community leaders with families wanting to make the journey out of poverty. Operating in communities around the country, each Circles® initiative consists of families working to get out of poverty and several middle and upper income Allies who befriend them and lend support. The family is the Circle Leader, setting direction for activities.

Philanthropy Magazine Article

This article shares the heart warming story of Danika. When Danika was 21 years old, she nearly became a homeless single mother. After dropping out of college she was working at McDonald’s and couch-surfing. Eventually, she humbly returned with her infant to her mother’s home in Asheville, North Carolina. Danika’s efforts to improve her job-readiness skills led her to the local Circles initiative, which gave her the help and motivation to become self-sufficient.

Click here to read Danika’s full story