'Poverty will soon be in my past,' says Sudbury man

Hugh Jeanveau says the Circles Initiative has helped change his life for the better. He's found work helping people, improved his mental and physical health and is making strides to leave poverty behind.

Hugh Jeanveau has hope for the future thanks to Circles Initiative

Circles Sudbury is a community-driven program that helps people on low-income become economically self-sufficient through education and employment. It's run by Public Health Sudbury & Districts and its partners. (Facebook/Hugh Jeanveau)

Hugh Jeanveau says his life is better these days and he credits the Circles Initiative for having helped him make the change.

Circles is run by Public Health Sudbury & Districts and its partners to help people living in poverty work on a plan to become economically self-sufficient.

That can mean going back to school or finding a job.

But success stories like Jeanveau's might soon come to an end.

Circles was launched in 2017, funded by one of Ontario's Local Poverty Reduction Fund grants. The money runs out in June.

Family has seen Hugh Jeanveau change thanks to Circles

Jeanveau is a graduate of the program. Tuesday night he spoke to Sudbury city council about what he's accomplished with the help of Circles, and the change his family has seen in him over the last few years. 

"They say I'm happier and more positive. My anxiety issues have improved so much that I actually volunteered to speak here today in front of everyone because I believe in the program and I believe that this program has changed my life for the better," said Jeanveau.

He says he wasn't sure what he wanted to do in life but he knew that he wanted to help people. 

"I continued to volunteer in the community teaching lightsaber dueling classes to youth," said Jeanveau. He also started a Star Wars YouTube channel.

"All this was just to get me out of my comfort zone to manage my anxiety," he said, adding that putting his face on YouTube for the whole world to see wasn't easy for him.

"The whole Circles group was very supportive and encouraged me to not give up," said Jeanveau. "And I didn't.

Besides the financial security generated by his YouTube channel and a merchandise shop he opened, Jeanveau says that Circles helped him make strides with his physical and mental health.

"I take better care of myself," said Jeanveau. "I gave up on sugary drinks and I've cut back on smoking with the intention of quitting the spring in 2020 which is coming up very soon. I bought exercise equipment and actually do use them every day," he added.

Mental and physical health has improved

"My mental health has also improved and I'm on medication from my family doctor that does help me manage my anxiety and I've not thought about depression for well over a year."

Last November Jeanveau started working at NISA /Northern Initiative for Social Action as a peer support worker. As his income has gone up, his Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits have gone down.

"Soon I will be off ODSP and that itself is a great feeling and brings even more confidence and self-esteem to myself," he said.

"Sometimes we just need some guidance and encouragement to better ourselves and that's what the Circles program has done for me."

Ward 12 councillor, Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, has known Jeanveau for several years and congratulated him on his accomplishments.

"I admire anyone who is able to pick it up and do great things with their life, to have the vision, but mostly to have the courage," she said. 

Ward 6 councillor, René Lapierre, said that to have a lived experience explained to council is "fantastic" when "we debate costs and we debate what to fund."

Council decided to help find ways to keep Circles going and asked city staff to search for other funding sources. Later this year, councillors will consider a business case during their 2021 budget deliberations.

With files from Angela Gemmill


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