Learning How To Survive

On Wednesday, February 24 several staff members of Tri-Lakes Cares and Hangers to Hutches took part in a “poverty simulation” presented by Pikes Peak United Way. It was an eye-opening experience.

Developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action, the simulation invites community members (from non-profits, businesses, private citizens) as “participants to role-play the lives of low-income families from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security.”

Everyone was split up into family groups or as individuals and supplied with some necessary documents such as identification cards, transportation passes and items which could be pawned. Family groups and individuals are of various age groups with real-life problems – in a homeless shelter, living in their own home but facing eviction due to failure to pay the mortgage, children with health issues, etc. – were asked to resolve those issues and survive during a four-week period.

Facilitators acted as service provider agencies, the school system, banks, lending institutions, places of employment, rent/mortgage companies and utilities. Others played the role of the police, drug dealers and other people in the community. Within a set period of time, participants navigated the system to try and survive.

And, the name of the game was survival. Nearly everyone who participated were of middle-class backgrounds and to suddenly be thrust into survival mode and to try to get all the necessary resources for the survival of the family helped to illustrate what so many people in poverty go through.

Panicked. Scared. Unsure. Confused. These were all terms that came out during the de-briefing to help understand the simulation. People reported feeling rushed and struggling to understand a system which doesn’t always respond to the immediacy of the need. Those who had “children” had to deal with truancy, theft and drug dealing. One “mother” said she was appalled that her child sold drugs, but was more than willing to take the earnings to help pay the bills. A “homeless couple” staying at the shelter came to the conclusion that it was easier to stay there rather than find their own place because they didn’t have to pay rent or for food and it made survival easier. A “senior citizen” who lived alone, reported feeling lonely. One “family” was evicted from their home for non-payment of the mortgage.

It is easy for many of us to judge those living in poverty. “Why don’t they get a better paying job.” “Why are they still staying at the shelter.” “Why are they homeless?” “What bad parents! The kids were arrested again.

The poverty simulation exercise made us realize how difficult it can be for those living in poverty. It is not an easy world in which to survive.


Fox 21 News did a news story on the event: http://fox21news.com/2016/02/24/pikes-peak-united-way-holds-poverty-simulation/

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