Poverty Simulation in Columbus, Indiana

About 80 people experienced the realities of poverty in a unique simulation conducted on October 30, 2018, at the Commons, by EcO Network (an initiative of the Community Education Coalition), United Way of Bartholomew County, Madison Consolidated Schools, Council for Youth Development and Cummins Inc.

Poverty is often portrayed as a stand-alone issue, but this simulation portrays how complex and interconnected issues of poverty really are.  The EcO Network’s southeast Indiana Talent Hub initiative is working across sectors with postsecondary and adult education partners to cultivate new strategies supporting students facing barriers that can derail their educational goals, including a focus on adults at 200% of poverty.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation was designed to help people better understand the realities of poverty. Participants included educators, staff members of local human service agencies, and local civic and community leaders.

Using a simulation kit, participants role-played the lives of low-income families. Some were TANF recipients, 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.

According to the 2016 U.S. census, there are more than 100,000 households in southeast Indiana struggling to meet their basic needs. The simulation enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities.

Based on data results from pre- and post- simulation surveys, this unique experience helped raise awareness of how poverty significantly impacts the local community and generated reflective discussions on next steps for potential solutions.