Community Programs and Information

Bridges out of Poverty

Bridges Out of Poverty St. Thomas Elgin is a group of committed community leaders and volunteers whose mission is to eliminate poverty by uniting the strengths and passions of those living in St. Thomas & Elgin County. 

Since 2010, this group has been passionate about reducing poverty in St. Thomas & Elgin County through the tools set out in Bridges Out of Poverty.  Bridges Out of Poverty, developed by educator Dr. Ruby Payne, is a uniquely powerful tool that looks at poverty through the lens of economic class and recognizes that moving people out of poverty requires systemic change. 

Getting Ahead

Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World is a book and a 45-hour workshop that helps individuals in poverty build their resources for a more prosperous life for themselves, their families, and their communities.  Getting Ahead provides people in poverty with the same information found in Bridges Out of Poverty, which was developed for professionals and others in the community working to end poverty.  This workshop is currently offered in Elgin-St. Thomas.

The Getting Ahead curriculum:

  • Involves rigorous work done in a safe learning environment with the support of an experienced facilitator and co-facilitator.
  • Enables participants, called “investigators,” to look at their own experience of poverty as well as explore issues in the community that impact poverty − banking, housing, jobs, transportation − providing critical information the community can use to take action to end poverty.
  • Guides participants through an assessment of their own resources and how to build those resources as part of their move to self-sufficiency.
  • Puts the concepts, tools, and relationships in the hands of people in poverty to make a difference in their own lives and in the life of their community.

For more information or to register, contact the YWCA at: 519-631-9800 ext. 234.



Circles™ is a program committed to the elimination of poverty in our community in our lifetime by using the power of a caring community working together. Everyone needs enough relationships, resources and reasons to thrive.  Circles™ is a supportive, intentional, reciprocal, and befriending relationship comprised of a Circle Leader (a family working to get out of poverty) and two to four community Allies (middle class people who befriend the family and support them in getting out of poverty).  The Circles™ Campaign promotes the vision to end poverty in St. Thomas and Elgin County by:

  • Building intentional relationships across class and race lines
  • Identifying barriers that keep people in poverty
  • Carrying out innovative solutions
  • Creating effective partnerships to help families
  • Changing the goals of the system to support families and economic change

Circle Leaders are required to complete a step-by-step, life-planning workbook, Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, that explores the hidden rules of economic class and the impact poverty has had on their lives. Individuals examine their own lives, identify their individual needs and create new future stories. Participants complete a self assessment, making plans to build supports and resources that will assist in reaching specific career, educational or employment goals.

Circle Allies are required to attend Bridges Out of Poverty – Strategies for Professionals and Communities, a one-day workshop based on the innovative work of educator Dr. Ruby Payne, PhD which will help foster a deeper understanding of the challenges and strengths of people living in poverty. This training helps people from all economic classes to work together to create opportunities for success. The training will:

  • Examine the impact of poverty on families
  • Explore the hidden rules of economic class
  • Identify ways to improve relationships
  • Develop new tools to better address individuals’ needs

For additional information visit: Bridges out of Poverty Elgin St. Thomas