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UT poverty simulation aims to catalyze change, empathy

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Monday, April 1, 2024   

More than 8% of Utah's population lives in poverty, according to the Census and an event this month wants to give participants a better idea of the challenges and barriers those in poverty face on a daily basis.

Stefanie Jones, program specialist for the Community Action Partnership of Utah, said the poverty simulation happening at the University of Utah on April 9 is all about catalyzing local change as well as empathy for those experiencing difficult times.

"Really, I think what these simulations do is show you that there are factors outside of one's will and determination to get out of poverty that might keep them there," Jones explained.

Jones pointed out the event is open to the public but does have a focus on legal experts and decision makers. The simulation is divided up into four 15-minute sessions, which is representative of one week in which participants must find a way to make ends meet. Jones added the exercise aims to encompass the poverty spectrum in Utah, from the challenges a single mother may face to homeless families as well.

Jones noted participants who have taken part in previously held poverty simulations have shared how stressful and frustrating it was for them to get through each day. She contended when one has extra money, you can save money, like buying in bulk for instance. Jones emphasized it should be easier for folks experiencing poverty to get help, and not have to jump through so many hoops.

"One participant told us a story about a bus route she had to take that took two hours of navigating for her to get her kid to school and then to her work, and then back to shelter. Then she did the same two hours in reverse to get home," Jones recounted. "This is a drive across town that would take you and I 15 minutes, or 30 minutes for the day."

She said to put it into perspective, what might take someone experiencing poverty four hours to complete would take a middle-class individual 30 minutes. Yet, many times those experiencing hardship are also expected to make it to appointments for services. Jones wants to encourage Utahns in poverty to advocate for themselves and to not be ashamed to ask for help.

Disclosure: The Community Action Partnership of Utah contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Consumer Issues, Poverty Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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