Father deafeats poverty with the help of Circles

Circles Utah Valley, an initiative designed to help struggling individuals and families achieve financial stability, recently celebrated another successful graduate. 

Through years of dedicated hard work and goal setting with the help of a team of allies, friends and coaches, Provo resident Doug Roberts was able to improve his financial situation, reaching above 200 percent of the federal poverty level. 

As Roberts can attest, this was no easy task. “I couldn’t see past my own nose,” he said. It was then, in 2018, that he was first introduced to the Utah Valley chapter of Circles, an initiative that “empowers people with the resources and community support they need to achieve financial independence.” 

These individuals are Circle Leaders, which Roberts described as an “eye-opening and mind-expanding” experience, even if it wasn’t the experience he was initially looking for. 

Prior to finding Circles, Roberts and his wife, Emily, had signed a two-year lease on a basement apartment that they thought was going to be a good home for them and their two young daughters. 

When they got a new landlord their rents was increased to an unaffordable level for the family. They moved out and, essentially homeless, lived in hotels and Airbnbs. 

When Roberts went to Community Action Services and Food Bank to seek help with purchasing a house he saw a flyer advertising Circles and soon thereafter began the program. 

A significant part of Circles is the Circle Allies, “middle-class volunteers from the community who become intentional friends to struggling individuals and families by providing encouragement, acceptance, support, life experience, and social networks.” 

So, soon after joining Circles, Roberts was introduced to a new circle of friends and helpmates. 

“There are so many people at Community Action Services focused on loving and serving,” Roberts said. “Lucy Perkins, (Circles American Fork Coach) has an energy, enthusiasm, and zeal for helping those who have struggled financially. She has really reached out and shown incredible support, going above and beyond the call of duty. She even fought alongside us in court, standing up for me and helping us make our lives better for us and our girls.” 

As his ally, Bryan Kingsford has offered Roberts odd jobs to help him earn some extra income. Once, Kingford’s yard needed to be weeded. Roberts brought his daughters to Kingsford’s home to teach them the importance of work, and while he weeded, Kingsford and his wife entertained the girls in their grandchildren’s playroom. 

Bruce Dew has been an ally for only about six months, but he has offered invaluable support as Roberts has restabilized after a significant mental health struggle. While Roberts required supervised visitation, Dew accompanied Roberts on an outing with his girls to provide extra support. 

Through the Circles 12-week educational course and the continuing mentorship of his allies, Roberts has learned three major principles: First, stewardship. People can get stuck in a distorted mindset—they become stuck believing untrue ideas about themselves and the world, and they can’t get out of that mental monkey trap. 

The Circles program taught Roberts that when you have stewardship over something, you’re able to see more clearly what is most important and not be held hostage by these old, untrue ideas. 

Second, the importance of setting goals. In the program, Circles Leaders work on setting smart goals. One of Roberts’ major goals has been becoming a homeowner, and he’s been working on it in “bits and pieces,” learning to budget and developing skills to take care of a home. 

“We’ve been taking action on those goals day by day, minute by minute, making everything work towards that goal,” Roberts said. “That has been amazing. It’s important to have goals be in reach. I tend to underestimate what I can accomplish over three to five years.”

Third, how to get accountability through a support structure. 

“Having people hold me accountable has made a world of difference for me,” Roberts said simply. As a Circles graduate, Roberts and his family are now earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Before the program, their income was below the poverty level. Roberts attributes their success in large measure to his new network of support. 

“We’re so much stronger as a fabric of people working towards a common goal: Being self-sufficient, wanting to contribute to society,” Roberts said.

For more information, contact Lucy Perkins at lperkins@communityactionuc.org for the American Fork site or Kelsey Schuwer at kschuwer@communityactionuc.org for the Provo site. For any other questions, please contact Brent Hutchison, Utah Valley Circles Coordinator, at bhutchison@communityactionuc.org. (Serve Daily submission.)

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