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.
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.
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.