ShareLife helps to break vicious cycle of poverty

  • May 22, 2019

Amanda Fellows has seen all too closely how generational poverty keeps perpetuating itself.

From one generation to the next, there are families in continuous “fight or flight” mode, said Fellows, program manager for community development with Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County. 

“People who experience generational poverty spend most of their lives putting out fires,” she said.

Life is always a struggle — where will the money come from to pay the next bill, where’s the next meal coming from, child care? It all comes at a price, a price the poor often find difficult to pay.

CFS of Simcoe County is one of more than 40 agencies funded by ShareLife, the Archdiocese of Toronto’s charitable fundraising arm. The third ShareLife Sunday collection is taking place June 1-2. The first two have brought in almost $7.5 million towards the $13.8 million 2019 campaign goal. The overall goal (parish, corporate and schools) is $15.5 million.

Simcoe County’s Catholic Family Services has been running a new program that hopes to break the poverty cycle by helping clients develop skills and a plan. Its Getting Ahead program began in the fall and in a short period has shown promise in dealing with the poverty that has been ingrained in clients and their families for years, said Fellows.

“It’s a really incredible process to watch and be a part of,” said Fellows.

Getting Ahead is part of a three-pronged attack on generational poverty, said Fellows. It begins with Bridges Out of Poverty, a program to educate middle class people who want to change the dynamic of poverty on generational poverty and what it looks like in the community. The continent-wide program has been in play in Simcoe County for years. 

Getting Ahead, the second stage, identifies those in need and helps set them up to achieve financial self-sufficiency through an intensive 10 to 12-week program which leads to the third facet of the program, Circles, where they connect with those who have gone through Bridges Out of Poverty. The idea is to have Getting Ahead graduates surrounded by middle-class people who in turn will help them achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves through Getting Ahead.

Getting Ahead brings clients together for four hours a week and pushes them to think outside of their normal parameters, said Fellows. It wants clients to envision a new life by setting goals for a better future. 

Fellows tells the story of one client whose first goal was to find stable housing. 

“Through the process of Getting Ahead he ended up with stabilized housing,” she said.

A second goal was to complete his high school education “and just last month he finished his high school diploma,” said Fellows.

Programs like this don’t come cheap. Fellows said they try to break down the barriers so that clients can take part, providing meals, transportation to and from the meetings and giving small cash incentives that may be the difference in clients being able to afford groceries that week. And with initial successes in the program, which runs only in Barrie, Ont., for now, CFS is looking to expand it. That’s where ShareLife funding helps. 

“My whole job is to find gaps in the community and fill them so that there’s no wrong door for a client, and that is provided through ShareLife dollars,” said Fellows. 

More information about ShareLife is on the web at

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.