Poverty Simulation

Could you survive a month in poverty?

32.9 million Americans, 11.7 million of whom are children under the age of 18, live in poverty every day. Many more have incomes above the poverty line, but their incomes are still low enough to qualify for programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid. The recent economic downturn has seen unemployment rates rise and the use of emergency food pantries increase.

It is difficult for those who have enough to truly understand the situations that families living in poverty experience every day –the decisions they have to make, and the fears and frustrations they feel. That is why we are inviting you to walk a mile in the shoes of those facing poverty by participating in the Purdue Extension Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS).

The CAPS provides participants with the opportunity to assume the role of a low-income family member living on a limited budget. In a situation, 44-80 participants assume the roles of up to 26 different families facing poverty. 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), 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 families will interact with resources including, 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, child care center, and community health care facility.

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.

For more information about the Poverty Simulation, contact:

HHS Extension Administration

The Community Action Poverty Simulation was developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action.