Poverty Training Experience
This week I attended a poverty simulation that was hosted by Young Professionals of Reno County and Circles of Hope. This was the first time I had attended a poverty simulation. All participants were assigned roles in a family the sizes of each family varied as did the roles each person fulfilled. I played the role of Mark a spry 8 year old boy who likes school. There were 6 people in my family , my siblings Billy, 22, and Teri, 17 who were both recreational drug users, my dad Roger who had a full-time Minimum wage job, my mom who stayed at home and lived with bi-polar disorder, and my Grandma an active 80 year old who lived with us.
Teri and I started the first week off going to school; Teri was expelled the first day because she was found with illegal drugs on her. Billy had to find a job to help out the family, he found many jobs, which didn’t turn out well for him. The teachers at school were mean and wouldn’t let anyone talk, laugh, eat candy, and you got in trouble for everything. I had a hard time determining why I, “Mark”, liked it at all. After school (10/15 minutes) I took the school bus home, which was luckily free to all students and I waited at home until the day was over. Billy was the first to get home and was frantic when he realized the 8 year old child was left by himself half the day. Grandma picked up groceries with the food stamps we received, so we didn’t go hungry. The second week was fairly uneventful. Luckily, since Teri was expelled from school for the rest of the year, she was able to get a job also.
The third week was spring break, there was no school and I had to follow grandma around on her errands for the day. We only had one car and dad used it to go to work every day, he was able to take Billy and Teri who both got jobs at with the minimum wage employer. So that left, the rest of us to walk or take the bus. Walking was free, so that’s what we did, but we had to get a walking pass and it took three extra minutes at every stop. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time but when a week is gone in 15 minutes, it really eats it up. Grandma was talking to a lady about insurance, while we were in line for our weekly walking pass and said something sarcastically that the lady totally misunderstood. We were kicked out of the building and then this cop came by regarding the threat made and we were taken to the police station. Mom had gotten caught in the drama as well, so the three of us were with the cop and the police chief trying to explain what had happened. Ultimately, we were sent home with a warning and to avoid the insurance lady in the future. After we were home again and discussing what bills needed paid and how much money the employed family members brought home. Then we were informed that Billy was in jail for possession and his bail was $200, money that we did not have to spare.
The fourth week we were trying to make sure that all bills had been paid, so we didn’t get evicted or lose our only car. After school and work were finished Dad picked everyone up so we could make sure we didn’t miss anything. We had medical bills for mom’s treatment and grandma had broken her leg but didn’t have insurance so that cost money, she was able to get a reimbursement from the local church for most of it. Billy had to pay off his bail money that he owed and pay for court fees, as well. Our family was able to cover all of our bills and had a little money left over.
I think our family did well by the end of it because we had half the house working and had other members who were able to watch the children after school or during spring break. It definitely started out pretty rough with only one income and 6 people. I think if we had actually been in this situation the two other children, who were old enough to work and contribute to the household, probably wouldn’t have gotten jobs and that would have drastically changed our outcome. There were other families that were evicted or had their children taken away. As a child in this experience, I felt like a burden much of the time, I couldn’t contribute to the household and someone had to take time out of their day to watch me.
It was definitely an eye opening simulation and helps me understand a little bit about why people and families who live in poverty make some of the choices that they do. One hour of a poverty simulation is nothing compared to what some live every day of their lives. As a child, I think we lived in poverty at times; there was a period where we had to stay at a homeless shelter. Honestly, as a kid I was mostly oblivious to our situation. I was blessed though, I never felt poor, I knew we weren’t rich, but I always had what I needed, food, shelter, and clothes. We did use community resources such as the food bank, food stamps, much of our clothing was secondhand, and occasionally our church would help us with gas or other bills.