Prominent Officials to Experience Poverty for the Day

PROVO, Utah— Seventy-two community leaders will experience the virtual realities of a low-income standard of living in a unique poverty simulation on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

The poverty simulation is designed to help people better understand the stress and difficulties which come from living in poverty. Community Action Services and Food Bank (CASFB) will be hosting the simulation for civic and community leaders, including Becky Lockhart, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives and Mayor John Curtis of Provo.

“This program helps people understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day- to-day,” said Joan Dixon, Circles Coach for Community Action Services and Food Bank. “With a greater awareness of its impact, we can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.”

Using a simulation kit, participants will role-play the lives of low-income families. Some will play recipients of government programs, while others may be disabled or senior citizens living on Social Security benefits. Additional roles will also be played by civic leaders. Each participant will shoulder the stressful task of providing basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” Participants will interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

Poverty is a growing concern for many Utah families. Currently more than 316,000 Utahns are living at or below federal poverty level and 12.2 percent of children in Utah live in poverty.

“This is the everyday reality for thousands of Utahns,” Dixon said. “Understanding what these individuals experience each day will help us have the knowledge to change it.”

According to Jane Carlile, Circles Project Manager for CASFB and an organizer of the event, “This poverty simulation will allow community leaders to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential changes within their local communities.”

The simulation is designed to sensitize those who frequently deal with low-income families as well as to create a broader awareness of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and others.

“We hope those that participate will walk away with a greater understanding of the complexity of poverty here in Utah and that they will use this experience to foster change in the community.” Carlile said.

The simulation will be held in the Clark Auditorium of the Northwest Plaza at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center from 2 -4:30 p.m. For more information on the poverty simulation, contact Eric Lafferty at 801-691-5237 or at elafferty@CommunityActionUC.org.

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