Tri-Cap Poverty Simulation provides local community dose of reality

Overturned chairs represented evicted families, by the end of the simulation many chairs were overturned.

On Friday, Representative Sue Ellspermann attempted to sell some stolen transportation passes to Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner. Spinner wasn’t interested, he was attempting to sell some drugs to support his pregnant girlfriend. Meanwhile, Democratic Chair and Business Owner Gary Eck was busy causing mayhem among the impoverished residents of Realville by selling guns, reporting competition to the police and stealing from local businesses.

Rep.Sue Ellspermann (right) sells Tiffany Scherle some stolen bus tickets (transportation passes) while Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner looks for his next score.

Not everyone taking part in the Poverty Simulation event held at the Alvin C. Ruxer Student Activity Center on the Vincennes University Jasper Campus was involved in criminal activities. Most just tried to get by with the limited “money” they received during the simulation. These families spent most of their time standing in lines and finding transportation tickets to get to banks, services and grocery stores. Little time was left over to deal with life issues that would arise like problems with school and children.

Tables spread around the gym represented businesses, social services and municipal departments. A pawn broker and gun shop stayed busy along with the food bank and welfare office. Interestingly not many found the community action center next door to the welfare office. The two police officers didn’t spend much time in their office as they continually responded to crime.

The exercise was sponsored by Tri-Cap and was designed to allow individuals to learn how impoverished families live. Many participants were surprised at the time it took just to find basic necessities like food, when they were limited by transportation issues and busy social service offices. The most common affliction reported among the “families” during the debriefing was hunger.

Ted Zigler was the local pawn shop owner and gun dealer. He was busy as participants attempted to sell jewelry and other items for miniscule amounts.

Ms. Amy Mitchell, a Northeast Dubois Family Consumer Science teacher, brought her Child Development Class, Advanced Child Development Class and Careers Class to the simulation. Mitchell told the students what the event was about and they were interested in taking part but some were surprised by the reality of poverty and how the simulation reflected it. “I had students that were really stressed,” she stated. “They came to me saying ‘Ms. Mitchell, we lost our jobs. What do we do?’.”

Dianna Evans, 15, a freshman at Northeast Dubois, played a single mom with one child in jail and one kicked out of school. She said it was difficult dealing with the loss of her job and the problems with her children. “I think the kids that did this today are going to want to try harder,” she said, “to stay out of this situation.”

Carolina Fernandez, 17, a junior at Northeast Dubois, said the event was a good representation of what poor families go through. She stated the event was stressful for her as she struggled to feed her family around the time constraints of her work, children and business hours. “Then I forgot to get receipts for stuff I bought and got thrown in jail because they thought I was a thief,” She explained. ”

Jasper Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Eckerle played the role of a child in a family. She said the hardest thing was not knowing where to go for help. “I didn’t know where to go, I was taken from my family and then sent back home by myself. Indiana doesn’t have any laws on ages children can stay at home by themselves,” She explained. “My family was in jail and I didn’t know where to go.”

The goal of the event was to allow individuals not facing impoverished conditions to realize the tremendous amount of work that goes into just getting by. The hope is that by increasing awareness of the plight of the poor more community action can be inspired.

According to Tri-Cap Director Joyce Fleck, the large turnout for the event along with the participation of local government officials like Sue Ellspermann and Mark Messmer made the event a huge success.

5 Responses to Tri-Cap Poverty Simulation provides local community dose of reality

  1. Joseph May 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    They should make this part of the classroom curriculum for the parenting and finance classes.

    Heck, instead of watching movies in any class the last week of school they should do this.

    • Caroline May 15, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      Forget parenting and Finance classes – it should be a standard in Health class which is a State requirement – along with creating a budget & balancing a checkbook.

      Had I learned any of these REALITY LESSONS along with Algebra, Chemistry, English Literature & History – I may not have had to learn it the hard way later on.

  2. Lisa May 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    Why do they not teach this in High School? Basic living skills & How to help others in your area. Pay it forward class………..I was homeless in High School.Put my things in storage unit & lived out of my car the last few mths. because I aged out of the Foster Care system or lack of system you might say……..Couldn't afford College…Had no family to return too…I made it …but no child left behind should be just that !!!

    • Angie May 17, 2012 at 5:14 am #

      Great point! I agree whole hearteldy that this should be taught much earlier in life… how to break the cycle, instead of "lie in the bed you made" or "live and learn"… let's do something about this to teach people how to avoid the "cycle of poverty."

  3. Caroline May 15, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    I wish the people that work in the departments that the poor have to deal with on a regular basis would have been required to go to this. The Utility Office workers for 1. People that can't pay their bill 100% in full on time do not need to be treated with hostility or shamed – we are aware that it has to be paid, but just may not have all of it at once.

    Twice have I had to do this and twice was I made to feel like I was trying to be underhanded and get out of paying it. When I fully intended to pay, just couldn't get 100% together by the due date.