Poverty Simulations

What is a Poverty Simulation?

A Poverty Simulation is a facilitated two-hour immersive experience designed to create awareness among participants of life at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Participants are assigned to “families” who do their best to survive week-to-week over a simulated one-month period. The simulation presents participants with real-life scenarios and challenges faced by people living in poverty.  The exercise is immediately followed by a group debrief, during which participants reflect on the experience, discuss insights, and consider next steps.

Participants often tell us they will never forget the overwhelming stress and hopelessness they felt as they walked in the shoes of someone facing poverty.

Since 2008, Crisis Assistance Ministry has been the local lead facilitator of Poverty Simulations, using a nationally-recognized curriculum created by the  Missouri Community Action Network. In the last four years alone, nearly 7,000 local citizens, including community leaders, business professionals, and members of faith communities, have experienced a simulation sponsored by our agency.  They often leave shaken by the role play, telling us they will never forget the overwhelming stress and hopelessness they felt as they walked in the shoes of someone facing poverty.

The ultimate goal of the Poverty Simulation is to transform these insights into action.  Executives have changed policies at their place of work and teachers have pledged to change how they treat children at school as a result of their participation.

Participant Testimonials

"Finding out I was a 9-year-old who had adult responsibilities was sobering and impactful."

"It's an eye-opener to the struggles and day-to-day challenges faced by people living in poverty."

"The whole thing was done so well. It was moving, emotional, accurate and so educational."

"The physicality of the event made it better than the typical table-top exercise. We felt real emotions trying to make our lives work."

"It showed that anyone can end up in a situation of poverty. You never know what life will throw at you and this exercise did a great job of showing that."

"The people in my group were all diverse and it allowed me to see that economic status and life situations level the playing field. We are certainly more alike than different."

"It was chaotic, which seems to be a real-life feeling for people who are in this situation."

"It really showed how one bad event snowballs for families that are struggling. It was very emotional."

"Going through this experience helped me to physically experience the panic, confusion, and dejectedness of tough, unwinnable choices… this goes a long way towards building a sense of empathy vs. sympathy."


Poverty Simulation F.A.Q.

Let’s Talk About Living Wages in the Queen City

There’s been a flurry of minimum-wage-raising activity in Charlotte recently, which is certainly good news for the low-wage workers whose paychecks are increasing. But, is $15 an hour really a living wage?

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Welcome Our Newest Graduates

On May 4, Crisis Assistance Ministry joyfully celebrated the graduations of a new class of Customer Advocates. New graduate Kimberly reflected on her journey from customer to empowered advocate saying: “I have found my voice and will utilize it to the best of my ability to help families like mine understand that there is hope, that life happens to everyone, and that we must not give up but continue to move forward.”

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Special Funding Released to Help Families Behind on Rent and Utility Bills

For a limited time, special funding is available for Mecklenburg County households needing assistance paying their rent and utility bills. While county residents can always seek emergency financial assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry, now through June 30, additional funds are available to assist families in need.

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Transforming a Skeptic

I’m skeptical when I hear people talk about life-altering, perspective-shifting experiences. So, when I came home to tell my roommate that I had just experienced one of the most powerful and transformative two hours of my life, I recognized the incredulous face looking back at me.

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Reflections on Legacy of Lynching and Racial Justice in America

As a new exhibit opens at the Levine Museum of the New South, entitled Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America, participants from the recent trip to Montgomery, Alabama, reflect on what they learned about the past, present, and future of racial justice in America, including right here in Mecklenburg County.

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As important as financial stability is, research shows that where we live may be just as critical to overall health. Last month, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released the “2019 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report”, which examines how location and health intersect.

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VITA Celebrates 50 Years of Tax Preparation Assistance

For half a century, the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has offered free tax preparation assistance to elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income households.

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International Women’s Day Highlights Achievements and Economic Barriers

International Women’s Day is a great day to reflect on the too-often-unrecognized achievements of women around the world and to acknowledge the significant challenges they must overcome.

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Charlotte Delegation Visits Montgomery to Study Racial Justice

A diverse group of about 90 Charlotte residents traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to explore America’s complicated history and ongoing story of racial injustice and social change. “We have to learn our history, ” reflected one participant, “so that we can pass it on to our children.”

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Prosperity Now Ranks North Carolina 41st in Financial Health

The 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard ranks North Carolina 41st out of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia in terms of the financial health of residents. The Scorecard calculates 52 outcome measures such as household income, access to credit, and net worth.

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“Economic Mobility” – The Report that Started It All

“Economic mobility” is the centerpiece of nearly every Charlotte-centered conversation these days. Wondering why? Here’s the report that started it all: “Where is the Land of Opportunity?: The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the U.S.”, by researchers at Harvard and UC-Berkeley.

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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Evictions Series – Full Reports with Local Data

For the first time, the community has access to local-level details of where, why, and how tenants are evicted in Mecklenburg County. Inspired by the award-winning book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, and author Matthew Desmond’s visit here last year, UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute set out to study eviction at the local level.

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