What I learned from a Poverty Simulation

Do you know what it’s like to go bed hungry? Or not knowing you’ll be able to keep your house or apartment? Or not having a home at all?

Could you go a month without your usual income? A week? A day?

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I recently had the opportunity to take part in a Poverty Simulation. It is something that will stay with me. It wasn’t an eye opener, as I pretty good knowledge of poverty before going in, as I learned a lot from volunteering with Sunnyvale Community Services. I help out every week and enjoy my time there.

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The average rent price in the city I live in is approximately $3,000 a month for a two bedroom. If you have a high paying silicon valley job, you can certainly afford this without difficulty. But not everyone has this luxury. Let the simulation begin.

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I am Mandy Morris Moore. A 15-year old in high school, active in sports and work part time. I live with my dad who works full time, my mom who recently lost her job and my grandma that we care for as she had a stroke and is on disability.

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Our monthly expenses are $1445. My dad makes $1,241 a month after taxes and we receive $210/month in food stamps. My grandma receives $330 in disability. That leaves us with a tiny cushion in case a small, unexpected expense comes up. We barely make ends meet.

As a teenager, my life should be filled with fun, friends & school. I shouldn’t have to worry about much else, but the truth is, I do. My mom didn’t have enough time to go to the grocery store yesterday and if she doesn’t go today, we will run out of food. When I’m at school, instead of focusing on what I am being taught, I worry about going home hungry. We’ve also had break-ins in our neighbourhood and I worry that our house isn’t safe.

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My family is stretched thin, but we make it work. An unexpected expense comes up and instead of panicking, we work together. I fortunately have a week off school for break and I decide to work full time and give my pay to my family to help pay our bills.

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Had I not done this, we wouldn’t have been able to afford our mortgage payment this month. This is a breath of relief as the Hogan’s two doors down were evicted last week.

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Because my mom is out of work, she is trying to find out about local programs that we should qualify for. But she has to wait in line sometimes all day, just to be given incorrect information. She goes from agency to agency trying to figure things out.

I can’t complain, we are fortunate. Last week, we heard one of our neighbours had their baby taken away from Child Protective Services as they had no one to watch him while they went to work.

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My family supports and helps each other. We keep organized and on top of things. It uses every last bit of our energy and we have no time for normal talk or what most consider normal lives. I am lucky to have two parents and a grandparent who really love me and take care of me as best they can.

The face of homelessness is not what we think. I was able to hear people who are currently or were recently displaced talk about their experiences. One woman told us how she was receiving assistance through government funding and decided to save her money in her bank account to rent her own apartment, instead of the communal living arrangement she had. Her bank account surpassed a certain amount and she was immediately taken out of the program because she had too much money.

She was forced to withdraw the funds, re-apply to the program and save her cash at home where she hoped she wouldn’t be robbed. She was told in order to quality for the assistance, she had to spend the money, she couldn’t save it.

I heard a few stories, but this one really stuck with me as the programs should be available to help people, not hinder them.

I also got a chance to hear people of Downtown Streets Team speak. Not only do they education the community, but they help restore it’s beauty with clean up projects. They volunteer and receive help finding employment and housing. It’s a big step in humanizing homelessness.

I really appreciate Sunnyvale Community Services, Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, StepUp, and Leadership Sunnyvale for hosting the event.

This experience was humbling for me. It made me want to help more. Do more. Be more.

What services are in place in your community to help out?

6 thoughts on “What I learned from a Poverty Simulation

  1. Wow that is confronting isn’t it to hear how some people have to live. And it really seems to depend on whether you have family and friends who will provide a support net – it really makes me angry when I see the government putting the squeeze on benefits again and again. It just seems so wrong and then the rich complain about any squeeze on their taxes and get their accountants onto it. It is fantastic that you can help out at the community services.

  2. Sounds like a really interesting day. It must have been quite confronting to have to work out how to deal with the scenarios. I can’t imaging what it would be like to have to manage these struggles for real on a daily basis.
    To be honest, I don’t think I have ever heard of anything like this being held around my area. Once a year there is an annual ‘sleep out’ event, where people sleep outside in the cold to raise funds and awareness for homelessness, and of course there are a number of community groups doing their best. Our government doesn’t seem to care too much, they seem to be more worried about working out tax breaks for big business and rich people. Screw people on welfare. :(

    1. I can’t imagine what it would be like in real life. It was tough enough in the simulation.
      I think most governments are looking to give better tax breaks for those with too much money.
      I’m not sure our government does everything they should, at least they do some things though I suppose. And there are a lot of groups trying to help and make things better.

  3. What a poignant post – thank you for sharing. And that is horrifying about people being penalised for saving. It must be so hard to leave poverty behind when you find yourself living week to week (day to day) like that.

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