MONROE – Students, teachers, caseworkers and others got to experience what it’s like to live in poverty March 8 during a simulation organized by Common Heart and South Piedmont Community College.
Participants were given new identities and phony money before going to work, buying groceries and ensuring their children were not home alone. They were also dealt unexpected twists, such as unplanned pregnancies or getting robbed.
“We wanted people to experience what we call the tyranny of poverty – that tornado of chaos, not knowing what life is going to throw at you,” said Corey Tossas, economic empowerment manager for Common Heart.
The majority of participants said it was a demoralizing downward spiral. Plenty of families in the simulation lost their homes or went without food for weeks.
As participants struggled to pay for living expenses and food, their last priority was health care unless there was an unexpected crisis. Plenty of participants played the role of seniors with diabetes or children with ADHD.
Despite these health conditions, only three participants received their medicine.
“While you’re doing this whole thing, the last thing you’re thinking about is health unless somebody gets sick,” said Lynette Willett, an eligibility specialist for Union County Social Services. She said this is true for real life, as well.
Others mentioned the lack of reliable transportation prevents people from getting out of poverty.
Keith Adams, executive director for Common Heart, said the simulation was for people who have not experienced poverty before.
“My passion is to open peoples’ eyes to see what’s going on around them,” Adams said.