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Viewing the World Through the Eyes of Minnesota's Working Poor

May 22, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A unique program is teaching Minnesotans compassion for the working poor, by putting them in the shoes of those who struggle on a daily basis. Geannae Falconer, director of Urban Immersion Services, Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, says one exercise in the Poverty and Privilege Training program has participants making the same difficult choices that many working families have to make when it comes to spending their limited income.

"You're doing everything society says you need to do in order to make ends meet, and yet you're really struggling. And what kind of sacrifices do those families have to make, and what kind of judgments do we as a community place on them for how they choose to spend money, without realizing all the other stressors that are involved in their life?"

Currently about 11 percent of Minnesotans are living in poverty, and Falconer says seeing just how tough it is for those who are barely scraping by can be a bit depressing for the participants.

"But I would say that, by and large, groups leave being very hopeful that they can be about changing the realities of poverty. Our hope is really to start talking about how to cease managing the issue of poverty, and look toward: how do we end poverty?"

In addition to the simulation, the attendees take part in a number of other exercises. One is called Justice in Jeopardy, which teaches facts and figures on the complexity of poverty.

"It's based on the Jeopardy game, but it's designed to teach a lot of statistics, in an interactive way that helps people to get a sense of indignation or deep dissatisfaction for the plight of the world or our community."

The training has been taken by church and civic groups, school and court officials and more. It's part of Urban Immersion Services through the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches.

More information is at urbanimmersion.gmcc.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN