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YCCAC staff participates in Poverty Simulation Workshop in Kennebunk

On Thursday, June 28th, staff from YCCAC took part in a poverty simulation workshop entitled, Impoverished Decisions: Experience the Limited Choices Available to People Living in Poverty. The poverty simulation was presented by Kids Free to Grow and York County Partners for Prosperity, and facilitated by Child Advocate MaryLou Beaver. The workshop was held from 8:00 to 11:30 a.m. at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 138 York Street, Kennebunk.

The poverty simulation experience is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. It is a simulation, not a game. The object is to sensitize participants to the realities faced by low-income people.

In the simulation, 20 to 85 participants assume the roles of up to 26 different families facing poverty. Some are newly unemployed, some are recently deserted by the “breadwinner,” and others are recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), either with or without additional earned income. Still others are senior citizens receiving Social Security or grandparents raising their grandchildren.

The simulation is conducted in a large room with the “families” seated in groups in the center. Around the perimeter are tables representing community resources and services for the families. These services include a bank, super center, community action agency, employer, utility company, pawn broker, grocery, DFS office, payday and title loan facility, mortgage company, public school and child care facility.

Volunteers, preferably persons who have faced or are facing poverty, are recruited to staff the resource tables. Volunteers are also recruited to assume the roles of police officer and an “illegal activities” person.

The experience lasts from two to three hours. It includes an introduction and briefing, the actual simulation exercise, and a debriefing period in which participant and volunteer staffers share their feelings and experiences and talk about what they have learned about the lives of people in poverty.

At the end of the simulation, staffers are invited to comment on the simulation experience. This could include a summary of how the participants reacted to the staffer’s role, comments about the participants’ ability to cope in the state of poverty during this “month,” previous experiences or special information or facts which the staffer may have that could reinforce the realities of living in poverty, how it feels for the staffer to be “on the other side of the table” during this simulation, and whether or not there was a perceptible change of attitude on the part of the participants during the simulation.