Circles Loan Program Launched

Oct 14th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

 

By SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE OBSERVER

Charlene Gordon says her journey out of poverty starts in the classroom.

Gordon is a single mother and participant in Lambton County's Circles poverty reduction program. She spoke to a group of city leaders Thursday during the launch of a $100,000 fundraising drive for a "micro-credit" program. The goal is to provide interest-free loans to residents who can't obtain bank or student loans to return to school.

"I think it's really important people know change can happen," Gordon said. "I don't want to be on Ontario Works."

She recently moved back to the community after leaving as a teen. An abusive relationship derailed her life and the last 12 years have been a struggle to make ends meet. Hitting the books is the best way out, she said.

She's enrolled at Lambton College and hopes to enter the nursing program next fall. But many of Circle's "leaders", or persons in poverty, have significant student debt.

Seven of the program participants have a combined student debt of 97,000 in default.

Repayment rules on Ontario student loans state that a recipient in default must pay the entire loan off before receiving new installments. So most people in poverty can't go back to school, said Gayle Montgomery, Circles program coordinator.

"If we don't move that mountain they will be trapped in poverty forever," she told the crowd.

Circles is based on a U.S. model developed by Scott Miller and his associates. Miller travelled to Sarnia from his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the launch. He said the government student loan rules typify how the poor can fall through the cracks of social programs.

"We need to eliminate things that shoot people in the foot as they cross the bridge out of poverty," he said.

Lambton College's vice-president of finance and administration, Margaret Dragan, urged community leaders to get involved and help the group fundraise.

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