Get Healthy: Combat poverty, homelessness with Allies |

Get Healthy: Combat poverty, homelessness with Allies

Pam Graber
For the Nevada Appeal

Editor’s Note: The Get Healthy Carson City column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

Q: What does the Capital City Circles Initiative do?

A: Capital City Circles Initiative (CCCI) is a collaborative effort of local volunteers and the human services system to help elevate people out of poverty and prevent homelessness.

The organization was formed in 2007 as an outgrowth of a highly successful self-sufficiency program model in Iowa. It brings community volunteers together with families in pursuit of permanent economic advancement.

The low-income person or family who wants to be able to meet their household needs consistently is called the Circle Leader. The volunteers, called “Allies,” gather around the Circle Leader in a supportive, intentional, befriending relationship. They embark on a process that can take up to two years.

This sounds like mentoring but it is not. The Leader is responsible for the circle – for leading and convening it, and for giving and receiving support. Together the Leader and Allies work to form and accomplish a viable plan that the Leader will use to achieve self-sufficiency. “This is not a handout; it is a hand up,” said Dina Phippen, CCCI program coordinator.

Working through a series of modules, Leaders and Allies face the intricacies of poverty, and explore and plan viable means for escaping it. The modules cover a lot of ground, including information about the “hidden rules” of the middle class like punctuality; budgeting and running a household; the proper use of makeup; the appropriateness of certain kinds of attire or personal artifacts; and the use of vocabulary, grammar and even profanity. The Allies help the Leader understand these rules.

When Leaders know what the hidden rules are (for example, do not wear black fingernail polish to job interviews), their chances of succeeding increase.

The Allies also provide Leaders with first-hand knowledge of how connections work. Most middle class people have family, friends and acquaintances with whom they exchange favors. People in poverty generally have less of this kind of capital, and therefore end up with limited choices for handling life’s stumbling blocks.

Allies may be able to share their connections. Say, for example, a Leader wants to start a program at Western Nevada College, but is intimidated by the application process. An Ally may have personal knowledge of the process, or know someone who can assist the Leader through guidance counseling, course catalogs, documents, etc. The connection is made, the Leader benefits directly from the assistance, and the Ally has modeled the behavior of making connections. Learning the rewards of giving back and helping others is another big advantage Leaders gain from the Circles experience.

A so-called Circles Coach lends expertise to the Leader to solve problems and navigate social service systems. The Circle Initiative follows seven guiding principles:

1. Build community to solve problems and reach goals.

2. Everyone needs relationships, resources and reasons to thrive.

3. Relationships are based on mutual reciprocity.

4. People in poverty need to take charge of their lives.

5. Building relationships across race and class lines is awkward.

6. Circle Leaders must be in charge of their own Circle.

7. Have fun and laugh whenever you can; use common sense.

It is an admirable commitment to be an Ally or a Leader. Our community is fortunate for the talented, generous volunteers who give their time and talent to Circles. You can learn more, including how to become involved, at http://www.capitalcity

Poverty Simulation Exercise

Want a way to see the world in a different way? On Saturday afternoon, Capital City Circles and Carson City Health and Human Services will conduct a poverty simulation that is guaranteed to be transformational for those who participate.

Participants will role-play the life of a low income family member who is struggling with financial survival. You will deal with the challenges of providing food and shelter with limited resources; interacting with social services and dealing with the realities of poverty.

To enroll for this community education event, contact Dina at 887-2190 or e-mail her at


Carson City Health and Human Services clinic administers hepatitis vaccine to persons who are sexually active and/or to those who use needles.

Carson City Health and Human Services Clinic

Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Wednesday and Friday; by appointment

CALL: 775-887-2195

Thursday is Immunization Day

HOURS: 8:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m.; 1-4:30 p.m. No appointment needed

CALL: 775-889-2195

• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services. She can be reached at