Community Action Poverty Simulation

June 24, 2012

If you are look­ing to expand your knowl­edge of what poverty looks and feels like, the poverty sim­u­la­tion might be what you are look­ing for.

Not only are sim­u­la­tions one of the most effec­tive ways to learn, but you will walk away with a deeper under­stand­ing of poverty by “walk­ing a mile” in the shoes of some­one expe­ri­enc­ing poverty.

Dur­ing the sim­u­la­tion, par­tic­i­pants play the role of an indi­vid­ual expe­ri­enc­ing poverty, many of whom inter­act with other par­tic­i­pants as mem­bers of a fam­ily.  They nav­i­gate the poverty expe­ri­ence together, using what­ever resources they have to pay their rent and util­i­ties, eat, work, go to school, and seek com­mu­nity resources. Par­tic­i­pants expe­ri­ence a month of poverty, which is sep­a­rated into four 15–20 minute weeks.

While the sim­u­la­tion includes role play­ing, play money, and even props, par­tic­i­pants quickly learn that the sim­u­la­tion is not a game for our (real) neigh­bors who expe­ri­ence poverty every day.

Par­tic­i­pants expe­ri­ence what it is like to learn about com­mu­nity resources, ask for help, cre­ate social bonds, how to get by with lim­ited means, and what choices and lim­ited oppor­tu­ni­ties make up the expe­ri­ence of poverty.

Why attend a poverty simulation?

Par­tic­i­pants described their goals in attend­ing as:

  • –Increas­ing aware­ness about poverty.
  • –Becom­ing more knowl­edge­able about poverty.
  • –Enhanc­ing their per­spec­tive and under­stand­ing of poverty.
  • –Learn­ing solu­tions to poverty and improve exist­ing resources.
  • –Expe­ri­enc­ing poverty.


Regard­less of the wide range of self-defined goals, 94% of par­tic­i­pants reported that the sim­u­la­tion met their goals.

  • –It allowed me to feel all of the emo­tions that come along with liv­ing in poverty — very eye-opening.
  • –Really pow­er­ful event, amaz­ing — felt real!
  • –It helped net­work and find new resources to help our community.
  • –The var­i­ous pieces (work, school, fam­ily sit­u­a­tion, trans­porta­tion, and ser­vice providers) came together to give a pic­ture of what is truly poverty in Amer­ica, and the stress that comes with it.
  • –To hear about some­thing does not give it life or real mean­ing, liv­ing it does.
  • –Got peo­ple think­ing about the need for a par­a­digm shift in how we do what we do.


Inter­ested in a Poverty Sim­u­la­tion for Your Organization?

Past par­tic­i­pants include direct ser­vice providers, faith based lead­ers, health­care employ­ees, gov­ern­ment and pub­lic lead­ers, com­pany employ­ees, and com­mu­nity mem­bers. While each par­tic­i­pant comes from a dif­fer­ent walk in life, they each gain a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence from the Poverty Sim­u­la­tion. If you are inter­ested in learn­ing more about the Poverty Sim­u­la­tion, review tes­ti­mo­ni­als from par­tic­i­pants and con­tact us.

CAPS Polk County 2012
Simulation: baby
Simulation: Planning for the week ahead
Simulation: Accessing services
Simulation: Work and employment
Simulation: Getting ready
Poverty Simulation

A fam­ily was evicted from their home dur­ing the Poverty Simulation.

Wordle from Poverty Simulation

A sum­mary of par­tic­i­pant expe­ri­ences dur­ing a Poverty Simulation.

CAPS - Paying for utiltiies
CAPS Polk County 2012Simulation: babySimulation: Planning for the week aheadSimulation: Accessing servicesSimulation: Work and employmentSimulation: Getting readyA family was evicted from their home during the Poverty Simulation.A summary of participant experiences during a Poverty Simulation.CAPS - Paying for utiltiies

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  • The training taught me to “manage what I have better and be more aware of the stress level it causes to not be able to meet ‘your’ needs.” (Poverty Awareness Training participant)