Poverty Simulation in Action

UF/IFAS Extension Manatee and Sarasota Counties, Family and Consumer Science Agents provided a Poverty Simulation for the State College of Florida Faculty during the middle of October 2019. The poverty simulation experience is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. It is a simulation, not a game. The object is to sensitize all of us to the realities faced by low-income individuals. Circumstances can affect individuals in their daily living conditions and activities. Our conditions of health, income and living can be modified in a severe way depending of internal and external circumstances.

Some families are newly unemployed, some are recently deserted by the “breadwinner,” some are homeless, and others are recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, formerly AFDC), either with or without additional earned income. Still others are senior citizens receiving Disability or Retirement or grandparents raising their grandchildren. The task of the “families” is to provide for basic necessities and shelter during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.”
The simulation is conducted in a large room with the “families” seated in groups in the center of the room. Around the perimeter are tables representing community resources and services for the families. These services include a bank, super center, Community Action Agency, employer, utility company, pawn broker, grocery, social service agency, faith-based agency, payday and title loan facility, mortgage company, school, community health center, and child care center.
Volunteers, preferably persons who have faced or are facing poverty, are recruited to staff the resource tables. Volunteers are also recruited to assume the roles of police officer and an “illegal activities” person.
The experience lasts from two and a half to three hours. It includes an introduction and briefing, the actual simulation exercise, and a debriefing period in which participants and volunteer staffers share their feelings and experiences and talk about what they have learned about the lives of people in poverty. Like real life, you need transportation to work or school. You need food on the table. You might struggle with a chronic illness. Throughout the month you will face the daily stresses and challenges a person in poverty faces.

Manatee Households in Poverty: 11% (state average: 14%). Sarasota Households in Poverty: 9% (state average: 14%).

The United Way ALICE Project provides a framework, language, and tools to measure and understand the struggles of a population called ALICE — an acronym for:  Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE is the growing number of households in our communities that do not earn enough to afford basic necessities. Individuals can visualize their own county in the report and see how every county is facing in the state.

http://www.uwof.org/alice

What happens during a Simulation?

The Experience

Aber AnnMeet Ann Aber. Like many people in poverty, Ann faces the daily struggle to keep a roof over her head and her children fed. Ann is just one person in the up to 26 families part of the Poverty Simulation.

During the Poverty Simulation, you will take on the identity of someone like Ann. You will work together with your family to live a month in poverty. 

Your Simulated “community” is a large room. You and your neighbors’ “homes” are chairs in the center. The services you need like banks, schools and grocery stores are tables that line the perimeter of the room.

 

. The simulation was developed by https://www.povertysimulation.net/