Circles of Pittsburg take on poverty

From the Pittsburg Morning Sun

Posted Aug. 30, 2014 @ 12:00 pm     by Chuckie Hessong

Pittsburg, Kan.

Take a journey back in time with me---50 years--to January 1964…. Long, long before I was born… (giggle)

The State of the Union address by former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson brought attention to poverty. That same month, Bob Dylan released his album “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” collection of songs that spoke to a time of social change and the issues of racism and poverty. While many things have changed since 1964, time hasn’t brought much change to some areas of concern. When Johnson’s War on Poverty commenced, the U.S. poverty rate was around 19 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The census’ most recent overall poverty rate from 2012 is slightly down from 50 years ago at 15 percent, but the poverty rate for children under age 18 is nearly 22 percent. Here in Kansas, nearly one in four Kansas children live in poverty. If you look back to 2003, we were just under 12 percent of children living in poverty. Now we’re just under 24 percent, so it’s almost doubled in the last decade.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, “any individual with total income less than an amount deemed to be sufficient to purchase basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and other essential goods and services is poor.” The amount of income necessary to purchase these basic needs is the poverty line. The current poverty line for a family of four, for example, is $23,550 before taxes.

Poverty is an issue that is complicated and deep rooted with no simple solution.

The effects of poverty on children and families are far reaching. The negative effects of poverty on child development and family functioning have been documented in countless studies of decades of research. They include, for example, inhibition of children’s intellectual development, increased rates of child abuse and neglect, increased rates of behavioral problems of children and depression of mothers, higher morbidity at every age and shorter life expectancies, higher rates of teen pregnancy, etc.

So, you might be asking yourself, “What can I do?”

On September 11, you can come listen and engage in a discussion led by Scott C. Miller, Founder of Circles as he helps kick off Pittsburg Circles, one of the newest Circles programs in Kansas.

Circles is a national initiative that focuses on three main areas to help people out of poverty: crisis management and stabilization, education and job placement, and advancement and economic stability. Families apply to take part in the program that starts with a 15-week “getting ahead” period, followed by 18 months of networking, learning and training.

Families, also known as “Circle Leaders,” participate in one meeting each week during the 18-month program. The meetings allow families to come together over a meal, talk about barriers within their communities, listen to programs that provide information to help them out of poverty, and work directly with leaders within their communities, known as “Allies,” to heed advice and build a network of people.

Although the Circles program is a time investment, the outcomes have shown that the program does work. The national 2012 Circles Impact Report shows that active participants who have gone through the Circles program in 18 months have, on average, an 88 percent increase in assets, 27 percent increase in income and 27 percent decrease in the need for public benefits.

So, join me:

When: Thursday September 11, 2014

Where: Via Christi Chapel 1, Mount Carmel Place, Pittsburg

Time: 10:00-11:30 AM, Business Community 1:00-2:30 PM,

Human Service Organizations, Faith Community, and Public:

Together, we can make an impact on poverty in Kansas.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call me at the office (620) 724-8233, or e-mail me at, or visit the Wildcat Extension District website at

Contact: Chuckie Hessong Family & Child Development Agent Wildcat Extension District, (620) 724-8233

K-State Research and Extension is an Equal Opportunity Provider and Employer

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