A poverty simulation experience presented by Aliquippa Weed and Seed, in conjunction with the Franklin Center’s Disproportionate Minority Contact Project, was held Friday at the Church in the Round. The simulation experience is designed to help participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive month to month. Here, the Rev. Marvin C. Moreland calls to be let out of "jail" during the simulation.
By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Beaver County Times
Nov. 4, 2014 ALIQUIPPA — Food, medicine or utilities.
It’s one of several stressful choices low-income families have to make each month. Keeping a budget in balance when necessary costs — such as housing, transportation and food — require almost all income is just one stressor that leaves people frustrated and looking for help.
That’s the situation several dozen Beaver County-area human-service providers found themselves in last week during a poverty simulation conducted by Aliquippa Weed and Seed and the Franklin Center of Beaver County. The program put participants in the shoes of a family living in poverty.
Participants were assigned to family roles — parents, children and grandparents — and given a budget and a series of responsibilities as part of Missouri’s Community Action Poverty Simulation.
“The whole idea is for human-service providers to have an idea what their clients go through,” said Jonathan Pettis, executive director at the Franklin Center. “They can take the lessons they learned back to their agencies. It’s really powerful.”
The simulation included representatives from Children and Youth Services, county Behavioral Health Services, Uncommon Grounds and other human-service organizations; members of the clergy; and officials from Aliquippa, Midland, Baden and the Blackhawk School District.
Groups were given different scenarios that low-income families regularly experience. Some families had absentee fathers or included children being raised by their grandparents. Other families struggled with divorce, affording college and teen pregnancy.
“The needs are very great,” said Abigail Young, virtual visitation coordinator for Trails Ministries Inc. in Beaver Falls, a faith-based re-entry ministry that works with incarcerated individuals and their families. “There is so much we all can do.”
Young, two of her co-workers and another participant played the roles of the Zuppot family — grandparents “Zola” and “Zeke” and children “Zenobia” and “Zander” — who struggled for four weeks in poverty.
A cashier at the local grocery store, Zola is the breadwinner for the family. Her husband has limited mobility and has to stay at home unless someone can help him travel.
The family was not able to buy food this week. There weren’t enough transportation passes to get Zola to work, the market and the Paycheck Advance office. When she did make it to cash her check, the office closed before workers could cash the check.
“Even when this family has cash, they can’t get where they need to go,” said Lola Thomas, a family coach with Trails Ministries who portrayed Zeke.
The family still can’t buy food. Zola never made it to work after she and Zeke visited an interfaith service where workers gave them all-day transportation passes that they used to get to the bank to cash Zola’s paycheck and Zeke’s disability check.