Simulation Helps to Understand Frustration of Poverty

HNP Communications Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y. – About 30 people experienced the virtual realities of poverty in a unique poverty simulation conducted Feb. 17 by St. Bonaventure’s University Ministries.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is designed to help participants better understand the realities of poverty. Participating were SBU faculty and staff, members of various human service agencies and local civic and community leaders.

“This program helps people understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day,” said Cheryl Parris, social ministries coordinator for the university. “With a greater awareness of its impact, we can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.”

Using a simulation kit, participants role-played the lives of low-income families. Some were disabled and others were senior citizens on Social Security. They had the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” They interacted with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

The simulation is 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.

There are more than 19 million people that reside in New York State. According to the 2004 Census for New York, out of that number, approximately 2.28 million people, 12 percent of New York residents, are categorized as living in poverty. “This is the everyday reality of thousands of New Yorkers. Understanding that reality will help us change it,” said Parris.