Students to Participate in Poverty Simulation

Imagine trying to live as a single mother, or a senior on disability, subsisting from paycheck to paycheck. Imagine knowing that the smallest setback (flat tire, sick day, doctor’s visit) could leave you homeless or without food for a week.


This is the experience that the William Woods University and Westminster College students will explore when they participate in a Poverty Simulation facilitated by Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA).


All students enrolled in social work classes at WWU will be involved. Westminster students are also participating, some for class credit, some to gain experience and some from the student organization CIVICUS.


On Oct. 28, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the John C. Harris Community Center, the students, along with invited members of the Fulton community, will simulate the experience of living for a month in poverty.


During a simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the simulation while interacting with various community resources staffed by low-income volunteers.


“Although it uses ‘play’ money and other props, fictional scenarios and time limits, Community Action Poverty Simulation is not a game,” according to the Missouri Association for Community Action (MACA) website. “It is a simulation tool that enables participants to view poverty from different angles in an experiential setting, while empowering low-income volunteers by allowing them an opportunity to interact with leaders from their community.”


Participants will be divided into family groups and given different scenarios—some will be families of five, some will be single parents, some will be elderly people on social security. The session will be divided into 15-minute “weeks” in which they will have to deal with things like providing food and shelter, finding a job and applying for services. At the end of this “month,” there will be group discussions.


“The key element is to know that people living in poverty are living daily with the stress of making ends meet,” said Brenda Rose, community services supervisor for Central Missouri Community Action. 


“They have to strategize how things get done in a way most of us take for granted and it is not easy; how to get to work or school or how to apply for benefits when you have to depend on someone else for a ride. Knowing what resources are available and how to access.  Meeting middle class notions and expectations (for example, money for a school field trip when the rent is due and worrying about paying it). Making hard choices with no winning solution is sometimes the way of life for some.”


She added, “For many participants, it changes their thinking, especially about what they take for granted.  Once given the scenario, they have to become very creative to survive and make it work for their family.”


Rose also said, “I especially like presenting the simulation to students…..they are the next generation of teachers, lawyers, policy makers, social workers, community leaders who can  make a difference in the near future.  Their sensitivity on the issues of poverty is crucial.”


For more information, contact Rose at (573) 642-3316 or