Poverty Simulation to be Staged

Nearly 200 people are expected to experience the virtual realities of poverty in a unique poverty simulation at William Woods University. The simulation will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 in Aldridge Lounge, and participants may choose which session to attend.

The event is jointly sponsored by the WWU Social Work Program and Office of University Relations; Westminster College Center for Leadership and Service and Office of College Relations, and the Callaway County Public Library.

The Callaway County office of Central Missouri Counties Human Development Corporation (CMCHDC), Callaway County Family Support Division, Haven House and other social service agencies are providing support.

The poverty simulation will be held during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and is a follow-up to the community’s One Read program offered during September. This year’s One Read selection was “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” Barbara Ehrenreich’s exposé of minimum wage work.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is designed to help people better understand the realities of poverty. Participants will include college students, staff members of various human service agencies and local civic and community leaders. The public is invited to attend.

“This program helps people understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day,” said Brenda Rose, director of the Callaway County office of CMCHDC. “With a greater awareness of its impact, we can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.”

Using a simulation kit, participants role-play the lives of low-income families. Some are TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients, some are disabled, and others are senior citizens on Social Security.

They will have the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of three 15-minute “weeks.” They will interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviews, police officers and others.

More than 637,000 Missourians are living at or below federal poverty level, according to the 2000 census. (For one person, that means an annual income of less than $8,980. For a family of four, it means getting by with less than $18,400 a year.)

An additional 989,702 individuals in the state have incomes just above the poverty level. These total more than 1.6 million Missourians struggling to meet their basic needs.

In Callaway County, approximately 3,600 persons are living in poverty, or nearly 10 percent of the population.

“This is the everyday reality of thousands of Missourians. Understanding that reality will help us change it,” said Rose.

CAPS enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities, said Elaine West, executive director of the Missouri Association for Community Action, which made the simulation available statewide.

The simulation was designed to sensitize those who frequently deal with low-income families, as well as to create a broader awareness of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and others.

The Missouri Association of Community Action is a network of 19 community action agencies throughout the state that provide a variety of services to low-income individuals and families.

Participation in the poverty simulation is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, call (573) 592-1127.