Poverty Simulation Response

by Haily Mae Dunn, , March 8, 2010

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I attended the Poverty Simulation in Corey Union on Wednesday, February 10th. It was such an invigorating experience. We were put into "families" for the two hour time period. Some were made up of four people, some two and some singles. We were all given an envelope with a family history in it, giving us our names, ages, incomes, and other materials we would need. Once we started, our weeks were split up into four fifteen minute sections. Each fifteen minutes accounted for one week, and by the end of the "month" we had to have all of our bills paid, as well as have bought food and clothing for the month.

The first thing my "husband" and I did was cash our check. When we did, we owed the bank $50.00, for a medical bill we had not paid yet, so we paid them that out of our check and went on to pay mortgage, utilities, and groceries for the week. Then we went "home" to decide what we would pay the following week. We continued this the second week and only bought the essentials. When we went to the bank to cash another check, however, she told us we still owed the $50.00. Although I argued with her about this, she would not give up and since we did not have a receipt, we had to pay it again.
I was appalled that this had happened. I did not know that this really happened in life. You have to have a receipt for everything to prove that you have paid for things. It was heartbreaking to me that a family that is really in financial trouble, would have to go through this, when they can barely afford food for their children.

The following week, we came up short, and we found that when we went to get groceries, there was a family who had left a check at their "house" so we stole it. Since our "houses" were made of chairs put together, it was easy to see the check sitting on the chair, so we just snatched it as we walked by. After we went back to our home and decided that we would cash it, we were both very paranoid. It was hard to steal that money from another family who has to deal with the hardships of poverty, but we had to do it in order to survive. When we went to the bank to cash it, the bank teller saw what we had done and said she would only cash it if she could have $20.00 of it. We agreed because we had no food for the week.

In our last week, we paid off the final bills we had, and we ended up with $75.00 left over. Two or three families came up to us asking us to help them out but we told them we had no money left, and they moved on to the next family. I think that since we struggled so much to get that money, running around "town" and having to pawn off some of our possessions in order to make end meet, we were not willing to give up that money to others in need. Although that sounds incredibly selfish, we worked very hard to get that money, and to just give it away was difficult. We might have needed that money for the following month, and then not had it because we foolishly gave it away. It was heartbreaking, however, to see what people had to go through in order to buy food for their children, or simply pay their mortgage so they would not be evicted.

In the end, we all got together and discussed what we had to go through to keep our families alive. It was so sad to hear the things that people had to do to stay alive for just a week. The reason that it was so hard to hear these things is because it happens in everyday life to families who are less fortunate and it made me realize how much some people have to struggle. I felt so guilty stealing from another family. I have never stolen anything in my life and even to fake steal money from someone else was hard for me. It is depressing almost to see how families with a low income live.

What always gets to me are those families who are in situations like the ones we were in, but buy things they do not need, like brand new vehicles every year or a flat screen television. I have never felt truly sorry for them and have to say I probably never will because they struggle to put food on the table yet they go out and buy things they cannot afford. As their child watched their parents assemble a new television or toy that they have purchased for themselves, their stomachs growl with hunger and it seems as though the parent has no remorse for what they have just done. Some may do it for a distraction of what they are going through, but I do not agree with it at all. I do however, now have a greater respect for those families who are the total opposite and would do whatever it took to keep their families fed and healthy. I have realized through this simulation that it is a harsh and cruel world and that people do what they have to do to keep the ones they love alive.

My dad just lost his job, and although the company who took them over rehired him, they gave him a drastic cut in pay. Although I know my family will not be on the level that families in poverty are on, I do understand how hard it is to manage money, and how difficult it must be to make those decisions as head of the household. It has given me a greater appreciation for my family, and made me realize that those who struggle, go through a lot more than people can see on the outside.

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