Bridges Out of Poverty

Bridges out of Poverty is an initiative aimed at tackling poverty in our community (Guelph). The program has three components – Bridges (the education), Getting Ahead and Circles. In Sarnia, where the program was instituted about 5 years ago, over ½ of the participants have come off Ontario Works. The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health unit started the program in 2013 as an initiative to address Poverty – one of the determinants of health. This program has proven effectiveness in the U.S. and Guelph is the second city in Canada to adopt all 3 components of the program.

Bridges = the Education

  • Understanding the hidden rules of poverty
  • Opening our minds to the culture of poverty
  • Building relationships to create a sustainable community
  • This initiative aims to educate the community and to date over 4000 people in Guelph/Wellington have attended the full 8-hour education or some part
  • Changing our judgmental mindset about poverty
  • Individuals who become the mentors (Allies)will take the full education program and ongoing updates

Getting Ahead

  • Individuals in poverty examine their own lives
  • Identify their individual needs
  • Set goals
  • Open to all low income individuals
  • 3-week course run by Ontario Works (open to all low income people) – complete a step-by-step life planning workbook, complete a self-assessment


  • Middle income individuals are paired with an individual in poverty to work with and mentor this individual to help them to meet their goals
  • Weekly meetings throughout the year
  • The building of intentional relationships across income lines
  • May have more than one mentor long term commitment 2 to 3 years
  • Identifying the barriers that keep a person in poverty –example of an individual trying to get a student loan but 10year old Feds loans phone calls
  • Weekly meetings held at Hope House with mentors (Allies) and Leaders (those in poverty), meal provided may have speaker on such topics as budgeting, time management, nutrition, etc.
  • Meal and child care are provided (community input to help address barriers at this level)

Guiding Coalition (the Board)

  • Members of the community representing Public Health, Ontario Works, Poverty Task Force, Police, School Board, Faith Community, Business Community, those in Poverty, F&CS and others
  • Planning and leadership and addressing systemic issues
  • Big View meeting –looking at systemic barriers – transportation is an example

Results to date

  • Individuals are moving forward
  • A second Circles group is about to start in Fergus with a third group planned in Guelph
  • Wait list for Getting Ahead program
  • Evaluation has been initiated
  • Of the 16 individuals attending the first Circles program over half are enrolled in educational courses towards their goals
  • Others have managed redirect their limited resources to meet goals

CFUW Guelph’s involvement with Bridges Out of Poverty

  • Fundraising – to help meet the needs (childcare, microloans, supporting individuals in meeting their educational goals)
  • Practical help – prepare dinners; members volunteer as Allies
  • Decision making – Guiding Coalition

Other CFUW Guelph activities related to poverty

  • Respond to and participate in consultations (e.g. Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy)
  • Educate ourselves – attend relevant conferences and presentations
  • Regularly meet with MPs and MPPs