(Source: Star Local News)

At first glance it does not seem like an exercise called a poverty simulation would accomplish much.

At the beginning of the evening many participants treated their roles like a funny way to spend the evening.

By the end of the evening attitudes about poverty had changed.

“I learned how chaotic the life experience can be and how difficult it is to meet the need and not anything above the need,” Beth Christopher said.

She was participating in the exercise on the Collin College Preston Ridge campus in March for a sociology class. She had been assigned as the head of the Community Action group. Others assigned as poor families came to her to find out where they should go next to received food stamps or apply for employment or rent assistance or wherever she decided they should go or she had the option to turn them away.

The Collin College Center for Scholarly and Civic Engagement and the Region 10 Education Center hosted the poverty simulation.

The goal was to survive a month either as a member of a poor family or the head of an agency or business that works with those in poverty. A week was represented by 15 minutes. The weekends were five minutes long.

The agencies were at tables around the edge of the room. The poor families were at tables in the middle of the room. The families had to figure out where to go and when to get what they needed to survive. The poverty simulation was developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action.

The facilitator Jasmine Guzman made sure that various things happened to keep things moving. The woman who played the role of the General Employer periodically announced she was looking to hire a group of people full time or, when people showed up for work she would lay off half of them.

Everyone received a packet explaining their various roles and what they were supposed to do.

The student who represented the police department in the simulation was the busiest during the exercise. Jeffrey Ridge got a workout trying to break up fights or look for kids who had been kidnapped.

Sociology professor John Glass acted as a thief. He stole people’s transportation passes, cash or food coupons (all provided in the packet) and then tried to sell the items back to the people from whom he had stolen them.

By the end of the third 15-minute week many of the people portraying the families were frustrated and did not see how they were going to get through the rest of the month.

“People think people getting assistance are getting more assistance than they really are. They don’t realize you’re getting just enough to get by,” pre-law student Carolyn Taylor said.

Guzman said the exercise is hard to understand till you actually go through the experience. She is a former teacher and wishes she had understood better the obstacles the poor faced better when she was teaching.

“Just because a parent can’t be there for every school function does not mean they don’t care about their child. Let’s not be so quick to judge,” she said.

She told the participants, “The people you’re trying to help need your skills and talents. They need your encouragement. They need to be motivated and need to know someone actually cares.”

(Source: Star Local News)

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