The Center for Service and Social Justice is running its annual Poverty Simulation Friday. The 88 participants will be divided into 26 different families and will simulate many of the problems that people below the poverty line experience. Participants also are given roles with background information on their gender, age, disabilities, marital status, etc.
Sophomore Mary Ellen Kane participated in the Poverty Simulation last semester.
“I was the father-in-law of a family,” Kane said. “And I had minor disabilities, but I couldn’t work.”
The event reached its full capacity of participants last March. Organizations help set up the event and are elements within the simulation. There will be members from local organizations portraying agencies pertaining to child-care, food, poverty support and medical support.
Pat Vaccaro, the director of the Center for Service and Social Justice, works in the office that is hosting the event.
“We have a representative from the Community Intervention Center, which is a homeless drop-in center,” Vaccaro said.
Students who participate in the event could see their fictitious family lose their house and be forced to live on the street. Every 15 minutes is correlated to a week in the real world. The goal is to keep the family together and be as financially strong as possible over the course of four weeks. Students enjoyed their experiences last year even though they had trouble keeping up with everything.
“I felt very rushed. There were so many different tasks you had to do within the time,” Kane said. “I found that I didn’t say thank you and I wouldn’t say please … I was forging checks. I was doing all these things that I normally wouldn’t do.”
Families needed “bus passes” in order for members to go to work; however, many times there would be people without bus passes who could not afford to purchase them. Therefore, belongings were often sold at a pawn shop.
“Every organization has to ask for a bus pass,” Vaccaro said. “If they don’t have that bus pass, they can’t go.”
Families needed to be concerned with paying for utilities, including electricity and water. Also, children who were too little to walk home by themselves and left outside school would be brought to child services where legal guardians went to pick them up. At the end of each week, participants from the same family met for five minutes to plan their next week. Everyone who was waiting in a line at the end of 15 minutes needed to return to their family.
“Everyone felt rushed,” Kane said. “But people felt it was a very eye-opening experience.”
A discussion followed the hour-long simulation. Everyone sat in a circle and a microphone was passed around. All the participants described the most difficult part for them and something that they took away from the experience.
“Hearing how people struggled and were frustrated was really a very cool experience,” Vaccaro said. “And then we actually get to talk about how people experience this in life every day.”