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June 14, 2012

Report gives low-income families hope for a better life

June 12th, 2012 – Calgary, AB – Stories of strength brought the data to life from United Way of Calgary and Area’s research report -- released today.  The report, From getting by to getting ahead: Six levers for building the well-being of families with lower incomes, explored what support and community services are available to help families move out of poverty. 
The six levers, include:
  • access to community and social services
  • skills and education
  • basic needs support
  • empowerment
  • equal opportunities for children
  • long term systems change

The stories provided insight into the challenges, strengths and possibilities that exist in helping families with lower incomes get ahead.  “My humanity is not defined by my income,” is one of the powerful quotes shared during the research process.

“Past research identified family relationships as instrumental in achieving greater health and overall wellbeing for individuals,” said Dr. Lucy Miller, President and CEO of United Way. “This year’s research identified that the most significant barrier low-income families’ face is meeting their basic needs, which is compounded by the struggle to build their assets.”

“Families, as well as existing services and systems have incredible strengths to tap into, and if we do, we can achieve greater wellbeing for families with lower incomes, improve their quality of life and launch them out of poverty,” she added.

Cindy Christensen, who spoke at today’s event, grew up in poverty, along with her mother.  Although she had little savings and few opportunities Cindy was able to access community supports through which she was able to change her life and move from a life of poverty one full of possibilities. Her mother, however, continues to fight the battle.

“Every day is a challenge, but I believe and hope my efforts will allow me to one day help move my mother out of poverty,” shares Christensen.  “My mom is a source of hope for me because she never gives up.  She always says that life can get better and I have become an example of how, slowly but surely, it can.”

Dr. Miller closed the event with a powerful message of hope. “I grew up in poverty so I know the potential of every individual and how much each of us brings to our communities. This report focuses on the importance of the individual, the dignity of the individual and no matter who we are, what job we have or where we live, we all bring something valuable to this city,” she said.

The research took place throughout 2011 and included multiple methodologies that provided the team with a deep understanding of the current barriers and strengths low-income families face.  Moving forward, United Way will work with its community partners to pilot new poverty initiatives that have resulted in success in other cities, strengthen the communication between community services and government and build opportunities to convene and tackle the issue together.

This research aligns with United Way’s vision of building a great city for everyone.  Change starts here.

For the full report and additional information, please visit


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