The Poverty Simulation opens people’s eyes to the human cost of poverty. The power of this unique learning resource is that it creates, like nothing else, insight into the state of chronic crisis that consumes so many working poor families. Participants experience one month of poverty comprised of four fifteen-minute weeks. Afterwards, in the debriefing, they share insights of extraordinary vividness and intensity.

The simulation was created by Missouri Community Action. It has been facilitated by Our Eyes Were Opened, Inc. for more than 10,000 people.

How the Poverty Simulation Works:

Participants are placed into families made up of one to five members. They receive an envelope that describes their demographics, their income/resources, and their bills. They interact with “vendors” (trained volunteers) who sit at tables around the perimeter of the room. During the course of the simulation, they may deal with a mortgage/rental company, school, pawnbroker, banker, employer, and others.  To get from “home” to one of the vendors requires a transportation ticket. This is just the first of many challenges the participants experience within the two-hour time period.

Comments from Participants:

I appreciated learning how desperate people can become and what you might do in those situations.

I had no awareness of the struggle of living in poverty.

I think the time constraints make it realistic. I had to choose between possibly being late for work and getting some other matters taken care of.

I realized the importance of working with other family members to solve problems.  The frustration / fear factor was very realistic.

It was really cool to see how hard it is to live in poverty.  I thought it felt realistic and I truly thought that it was real life.  I had a family and saw what it as like to have to take care of three children with no money.

I was not able to get a job and so I roamed the street confused. Money was a problem.

The simulation was complicated, confusing, and frustrating. I realized  that things aren’t as simple as you may think.

I experienced the stress of living through a month trying to work, pay bills, and take care of childcare.

Group requirements: At least 25 and no more than 80

Space needs: A large room (about the size of a gym) and multiple tables and chairs. Request the floor plan set up.


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