Employees learn about life in povertyAbout 40 employees of Community Action Region VI on Monday experienced a few of the trials their clients go through every day in a program known as the poverty simulator.
By: By Chris Olson, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
About 40 employees of Community Action Region VI on Monday experienced a few of the trials their clients go through every day in a program known as the poverty simulator.
“The goal here is for our employees to understand the frustrations our clients deal with on a daily basis,” said Cathy Williams, Community Action Region VI executive director.
In the simulation 44 to 80 people assume the role of up to 26 different families facing poverty. Some families are recently unemployed or have been deserted by the person who provided the main source of income. Some participants play the role of senior citizens receiving disability or retirement money or are raising their grandchildren.
The simulation is done in a large room with the families seated in groups in the center. Each family must provide basic necessities and shelter over the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” Community volunteers play the roles of employers, school personnel, law enforcement and other businesses and government agencies that provide services to low-income families.
Williams, Andrea Olson, from Community Action Fargo, and Lisa Harris, human resources and office manager for CA Region VI, organized the seminar.
“It creates a sense of empathy for the people we serve,” Williams said.
Deb Lee of Jamestown volunteers with RSVP+. She was assigned the role of office receptionist for the Social Services office.
“When we started out this morning, everyone was nice,” she said. “The first thing they get from us is this 18-page form they have to fill out just to see if they qualify. Then, they’ve got to get back in line and wait again.”
Lee said it really opened her eyes as to how much waiting around people have to do to receive these services.
Jamestown City Councilman Charlie Kourajian volunteered as a social worker for the simulation. He, too, noted how much time people had to spend waiting, standing in lines, and often didn’t get an answer to their questions.
“I have a new appreciation for how much effort they have to put in to receive these services,” he said.
Olson said North Dakota Community Action has held poverty simulators around the state for the last eight years.
“This was our first one in Jamestown,” she said.
Williams said they want to hold these simulations in the community, with church and social groups, to help dispel the perception that collecting social services is an easy process.
Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at email@example.com