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NRCA hosts poverty simulation exercise

Frustration, hopelessness and stress.
After a group of community leaders, law enforcement workers, pastors, social service workers, college students and other local citizens participated in a poverty simulation exercise on Tuesday morning in Central Gym in Pulaski, these were the most common words used to describe their experiences.
The Pulaski area office and the local advisory board for New River Community Action sponsored this event to provide participants with a brief but powerful taste of what it is like to live in poverty and sensitize them to the realities faced by people living on an extremely limited income.
During the simulation, the participants assumed the roles of several different families facing poverty. Some were newly unemployed or found themselves homeless. Others were senior citizens living on Social Security or grandparents raising grandchildren, or, in some scenarios, the family “breadwinner” ended up in jail. Some were recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), either with or without additional earned income.
The task of each “family” was to provide for basic necessities and shelter during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.”
To survive, each family had to keep their home secure, buy a required amount of food each week, keep their utilities on, make loan payments, pay for clothing and miscellaneous expenses, respond appropriately to unexpected factors and keep school-age children in school.
Each family was provided with some, but not all items, such as cash, transportation passes, food stamps, employment, a savings account and other items.
Throughout each of the four weeks, the participants came in contact with police officers, utility collectors, a pawnbroker, grocer, mortgage/rent collector, quick cash/payday and title loan manager, Department of Social Services employees, a community action staffer, an employer, child care worker, school teacher, bank/loan collector, interfaith agency and illegal activities person. These roles were filled by volunteer staffers.
After the simulation exercise took place, a debriefing period was held in which participants and volunteer staffers shared their feelings and experiences and talked about what they learned about the lives of people living in poverty.
The debriefing period, along with the entire simulation, was conducted and facilitated by Dawn Barnes of the Virginia Extension Office. She noted that all of the area offices that NRCA serves, including the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and the city of Radford would be participating in similar exercises.
Kathy Denny, director of the BLDG, which is an outreach ministry located in downtown Pulaski, was part of a five-member family during the exercise. During the debriefing period, she said that the family was able to manage their money to keep up with their bills, but having money left over to buy food was an issue. However, the family’s income was too high for them to qualify to receive food stamps or any related assistance.
Denny noted that this was a situation she had witnessed before in working with people at the BLDG.
Sabrena Pagani, a graduate student at Radford University working towards earning a master’s degree in social work, played the role of a 19-year-old girl whose boyfriend walked out on her, so she was left to provide for their baby by herself. Throughout the simulation, she became so frustrated and depressed that she turned to illegal drug use.
“That’s real — that’s really going on out there — and it’s scary,” Pagani said. She later added that the simulation exercise was an excellent opportunity to put oneself in the “shoes” of a person living in poverty.
Cheryl Ann McGovern, another social work graduate student at RU, commented that those who have never had to use “the system” should participate in one of these simulation exercises, because it really opens a person’s eyes to things they didn’t realize and “gives you a good feel” for what it’s like to live in poverty. She added that the experiences they had during the exercise were probably “minuscule” compared to what it’s really like “out there.”

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NRCA hosts poverty simulation exercise

Frustration, hopelessness and stress.
After a group of community leaders, law enforcement workers, pastors, social service workers, college students and other local citizens participated in a poverty simulation exercise on Tuesday morning in Central Gym in Pulaski, these were the most common words used to describe their experiences.
The Pulaski area office and the local advisory board for New River Community Action sponsored this event to provide participants with a brief but powerful taste of what it is like to live in poverty and sensitize them to the realities faced by people living on an extremely limited income.
During the simulation, the participants assumed the roles of several different families facing poverty. Some were newly unemployed or found themselves homeless. Others were senior citizens living on Social Security or grandparents raising grandchildren, or, in some scenarios, the family “breadwinner” ended up in jail. Some were recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), either with or without additional earned income.
The task of each “family” was to provide for basic necessities and shelter during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.”
To survive, each family had to keep their home secure, buy a required amount of food each week, keep their utilities on, make loan payments, pay for clothing and miscellaneous expenses, respond appropriately to unexpected factors and keep school-age children in school.
Each family was provided with some, but not all items, such as cash, transportation passes, food stamps, employment, a savings account and other items.
Throughout each of the four weeks, the participants came in contact with police officers, utility collectors, a pawnbroker, grocer, mortgage/rent collector, quick cash/payday and title loan manager, Department of Social Services employees, a community action staffer, an employer, child care worker, school teacher, bank/loan collector, interfaith agency and illegal activities person. These roles were filled by volunteer staffers.
After the simulation exercise took place, a debriefing period was held in which participants and volunteer staffers shared their feelings and experiences and talked about what they learned about the lives of people living in poverty.
The debriefing period, along with the entire simulation, was conducted and facilitated by Dawn Barnes of the Virginia Extension Office. She noted that all of the area offices that NRCA serves, including the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Pulaski and the city of Radford would be participating in similar exercises.
Kathy Denny, director of the BLDG, which is an outreach ministry located in downtown Pulaski, was part of a five-member family during the exercise. During the debriefing period, she said that the family was able to manage their money to keep up with their bills, but having money left over to buy food was an issue. However, the family’s income was too high for them to qualify to receive food stamps or any related assistance.
Denny noted that this was a situation she had witnessed before in working with people at the BLDG.
Sabrena Pagani, a graduate student at Radford University working towards earning a master’s degree in social work, played the role of a 19-year-old girl whose boyfriend walked out on her, so she was left to provide for their baby by herself. Throughout the simulation, she became so frustrated and depressed that she turned to illegal drug use.
“That’s real — that’s really going on out there — and it’s scary,” Pagani said. She later added that the simulation exercise was an excellent opportunity to put oneself in the “shoes” of a person living in poverty.
Cheryl Ann McGovern, another social work graduate student at RU, commented that those who have never had to use “the system” should participate in one of these simulation exercises, because it really opens a person’s eyes to things they didn’t realize and “gives you a good feel” for what it’s like to live in poverty. She added that the experiences they had during the exercise were probably “minuscule” compared to what it’s really like “out there.”

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