Bridges Out of Poverty lead to self-sufficiency and success

Poverty affects all of us. However, the more we understand the dynamics of poverty, the greater the opportunity for us to create stronger communities where everyone can live well. Bridges Out of Poverty trainings and Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World workgroups are designed to do just that.

Serving as a catalyst, the Department of Commerce started working with WorkFirst Local Planning Area Partnerships (LPAs) and others to deliver both Bridges Out of Poverty and Getting Ahead curriculum in communities across the state.

For example, the Cowlitz Wahkiakum County LPA embarked on a community-wide effort to provide Bridges training to staff from social service organizations, the school system including higher education, city and county government, the health care profession and others.

Washington is also the first state in the country to pilot a statewide Getting Ahead initiative targeting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participants enrolled in WorkFirst. Getting Ahead workgroups provide a discussion venue to help those experiencing poverty gain a better understanding of why they are in poverty, why it’s so hard to get out of poverty, and what they can do about it. This program had more than 100 graduates in fiscal year 2016 and nearly 250 graduates in 2017. There were 393 Getting Ahead participants with 243 graduating after completing 16 three-hour sessions. – However, WorkFirst is a jobs program so some did not make it to graduation because they went to work. If they had continued, the graduation rate would have been above 70%.

Participants remarked on how life-changing the Getting Ahead work groups have been for them:

I will never be able to put into words how truly grateful I am for having been a part of this program and I recommend that everyone, no matter what your position in life is, take this class. If not for yourself or a loved one, take it for a better understanding into what poverty is, why so many people are in it, and what you might be able to do to help someone like me change their life for the better.”

I owe a lot of my success to this program. Not only have I been able to gain full time employment, I have also been able to accomplish about 90% of the goals I had laid out when I started Getting Ahead at the beginning of this year. Here it is, only five months after graduation and I am in the best position I have ever been in, in my entire life. I have been able to transition off of TANF, and I am in my last five months of Food Benefits. I am financially able to pay for all the things that my daughter and I need.”

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