Imagine this: you’re a part of a family struggling with poverty and everything in this packet is what you have to try to survive.
“Many people are one, two, maybe three paychecks away from being unhoused,” said Bob Bohac, Chair of the Oasis Village Board.
At a poverty simulation at the Mountain View Fellowship in Redmond, attendees got a peek into that perspective.
“Because when we experience the emotion of something, we really remember it and it really resonates within us whereas if we just read about it, not so much,” said Susan Carr, an educator for the Rogue Retreat.
Participants were split into groups or “families.” For each family, there was a packet with their circumstances and items they own.
“It also brought back memories of childhood,” said Louise Kaplain, a participant “I did not grow up in a rich house and a battery dying would’ve been, that would’ve thrown a kink in things.”
Multiple tables around the church’s gymnasium represented businesses.
“Things like the bank and the grocery store,” Carr said “Other things like social services and the community action network.”
Families had 15 minutes to simulate a week and how they would get through it. Organizers would help operate the business tables or approach people with “Luck of the draw” cards, often containing unfortunate scenarios like a funeral that needs to be paid for.
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After three simulated weeks, the participants retold their experiences together.
“We had food stamps, I was able to do that, get food stamps because we had a baby coming,” said one participant about her simulated experience.
“This ain’t for the faint of heart,” said another participant.
That participant claimed he worked at a bank and said the $28 he missed on a payment during the event would’ve been doubled with the minimum real-life bounce-check fee.
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Some participants even admitted to cheating during the simulation.
“Is that something you would normally do?” Carr said to a participant that admitted to stealing another persons’ fake money.
“No,” said the participant.
“Why did you do it?” Carr said.
“Because this is stressful,” the participant said.
Another woman was planted by the organizers to purposefully cause trouble by stealing and getting thrown in the fake jail for a more real-life-feeling environment.
Organizers hope that in a community like Central Oregon, these events won’t trivialize others’ experiences but rather educate in this financially diverse community.
“A lot of people don’t believe that there are 150 – 200 people, maybe more that need shelter,” Bohac said.
Two more poverty simulation events are in the works for the spring and fall.