EL PASO, Texas – United Way of El Paso County’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) hosted a poverty simulation last Saturday to increase public awareness on poverty around the U.S.
As part of United Way Worldwide’s annual Day of Action, the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) gave participants the opportunity to role-play the lives of low-income families facing different situations and were tasked to provide basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget.
“More than 20% of El Pasoans live in poverty,” said Benjamin Fresquez, President of YLS. “It is difficult for others who are not in that situation to truly understand the fears and struggles they have to deal with in a daily basis.”
Participants were informed that the simulation was not a game but an experience 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.
Using a simulation kit from the Missouri Association for Community Action, some participants were Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit recipients and others were disabled.
Participants were tasked to provide necessities and shelter on a limited budget during a sequence four 15-minute “weeks.” They interacted with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.
Project Vida after school supervisor and volunteer coordinator, Lizzie Rodriguez, said the simulation was eye opening.
“In my scenario, I was in a group that was a family of four, living paycheck to paycheck, Rodriguez said. “I realized there was no time to connect with my ‘family’ because we were busy trying to find our next move of what to do or where to go.”
About 24 percent of El Pasoans and 17 percent of Texans are living at or below the federal poverty level, according to the 2008-2012 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. “This simulation enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles; then recognize and discuss the potential change within our community,” Fresquez said.