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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Changing lives forever: Church program lifts people out of poverty

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Eighteen weeks ago, Jennifer Culpepper was homeless and without hope. 

“I had a lot of grief in my life,” Culpepper said. “I didn’t know where to turn.”

Now, Culpepper is brimming with optimism and has a pathway and plan out of her current situation, and she has already started. She now has options and a future, and she credits a program at Holy Angels Church in Indianapolis called Changing Lives Forever for the change.

“I got my life back on path,” she said. “Doors are opening, and it’s all because of this program.”

Changing Lives Forever is a 22-week program with participants, or investigators as they are called once people begin, starting in March and graduating on Sept. 9. Sixteen people started the class in March and 13 will graduate. Investigators meet for three hours every Saturday and talk about their struggles, get resources for getting out of poverty, find connections and generally learn to think in a new way about their lives and what can be done to improve themselves.

Sister Gayle Trippett coordinates the Changing Lives program and said the program is catching on in churches and communities around Indiana and the country. At Holy Angels, it’s sponsored by St. Vincent DePaul.

“It teaches people about politics, uses models, talks about communities and neighborhoods and discusses how communities and people can work to mitigate the process of poverty,” Trippett said. “It gives people the expertise they need to rise out of their situations.”

The program is based on the book Bridges out of Poverty by Ruby Payne, and everyone in the program gets a copy of it. Culpepper said she’s found it invaluable and checks it regularly. She probably will for some time.

“Just this morning I looked at the transportation chapter. There’s so much in there that I didn’t know was out there to help,” Culpepper said.

But that’s not the only resource investigators get; they also get access to WorkOne Indianapolis, a financial planner, a credit union and other needed resources. 

“They help you with whatever,” Culpepper said. “There are things you can’t imagine were out there, and so many people are willing to help.” 

One of the main focuses of the program is to get out of the “tyranny of the moment” spiral so many in poverty find themselves in. Some people get so caught up in moving from crisis to crisis that they don’t have time to step back and think about their situation and how to get out of it. The system is seemingly set up for poor people to fail, with payday loans, poor housing and a million other factors.

“This system helps break that cycle, gives people time to step back and gives them other resources so people can say ‘I can do this,’” Trippett said, adding that poverty steals poor people’s voices. “This program gives them their voice back,” she said.


For more information on Changing Lives and to learn about the next class session, contact program coordinator Domoni Rouse at (317) 924-5769, ext. 219.

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