Organizer Hopes Poverty Simulation Builds Resource Network in Southern Oklahoma
Fran is a 38-year-old woman who is trying to finish her bachelor’s degree. She knows how to work on her own car, but is terrified that a major repair is imminent. She was recently laid off and relies on unemployment benefits and some money from her student loans to make ends meet.
She has four weeks to make tough financial choices, including paying for her monthly health insurance premium of $ 95 or her medications of $ 320. On top of that, she still has utilities, groceries, a dependent child, and the rent owed for her apartment.
Although this is technically a fictional scenario, Fran and his situation are based on that of a real person and were part of the experience of the cost of poverty on Thursday. Dozens of volunteers and participants took part in learning about the multiple barriers faced by people living in or near poverty during the two-hour simulation at the downtown farmer’s market.
“We have these real-life stories every day that we work with,” said Chris Campbell, executive director of Project 111 in Oklahoma City, who facilitated Thursday’s simulation. His organization organized the simulation with Circle of Care of Oklahoma City, CASA of Southern Oklahoma and the Ardmore First United Methodist Church.
After a brief orientation, participants received an orange folder containing general information about their character and various resources such as money or valuables. Tables surrounding the participants were staffed by volunteers and represented resources such as a minimum wage job, gas station, grocery store, and even a homeless shelter.
Participants then had an hour to attend to the needs of their characters, with 15 minutes representing a week, and were challenged to improve their situation after a simulated month.
For Kevin White, his character was placed in the criminal justice system with stolen items towards the end of week two. As he waited for his mock court date, opportunities to meet other needs in his life came and went.
“It’s an interesting simulation for sure. It sure seems hard to make ends meet with the given scenario, but it’s pretty realistic. High rent, high utilities, low amount of money seem normal for the course, ”White said.
The cost of experiencing poverty aims to highlight the issues that often prevent individuals or families from improving their socioeconomic status. Campbell said the economic resources needed to lift people out of poverty must be viewed with social resources.
“For a lot of families, I think what we forget is what they don’t need, it’s more stuff. They need connections and relationships, ”said Campbell. “A lot of people who have come from here, what they don’t want is another handout. What they want is a friend. They want someone to stand up for them.
Participants had to consider their finances and personal resources. Some characters did not have a vehicle and had to choose between public transport or walking. While public transportation had an associated cost, walking would prevent participants from visiting resource tables for several minutes to represent the time and energy required to get around on foot.
Some simulated families also had dolls depicting young children. If volunteers noticed that families with dolls did not provide these mock children, participants ran the risk of having the children taken away and facing court intervention.
“For us in particular, with child protection, one of the things we see is that 85% of the cases in Oklahoma in the child protection space are related to some type of neglect. and a lot of these neglect issues are due to socio-economic challenges, ”Campbell said.
Taylor Roring said her experience as the CASA Advocates Coordinator has shown that poverty routinely results in the removal of children in southern Oklahoma from their families.
“Some families find themselves in a situation where their children are taken away because they cannot provide a household with everything the children need,” Roring said.
What she witnessed while volunteering at a simulated gas station was an example of common issues families face and the tough decisions that need to be made on a daily basis.
“It’s interesting because some families come and they want to buy gas but they don’t have $ 40 for the week,” Roring said. “Watching them try to figure out what to do – go next to the pawnshop to sell something – it’s been interesting.”
Campbell is hoping Thursday’s simulation was the first step in expanding the reach of his organization in Carter County. As Project 111 focuses on creating a network of churches to connect foster children with safe families, it hopes their CarePortal collaboration with churches, agencies and community partners can help families. local families in need.
“These needs are presented by local social workers, local organizations and community members can step in and help today,” Campbell said.
As of Friday, the CarePortal network had five new open applications posted in three counties in Oklahoma. A request from the Oklahoma Department of Public Services was for $ 952 to help a Canadian county business owner and single dad pay his rent. The unidentified man risks losing the home for him and his daughter next week.
Another request was from a foster family in Adair County who recently had to spend $ 2,000 on an exterminator when one of the children brought bedbugs home after a visit. The request was for three twin mattresses after the family had to destroy the infected beds.
Unlike the scenarios in the Cost of Poverty Experience simulation, the people and cases listed on CarePortal are real. Multiple requests are posted daily on the network’s website with responses left by members of the hundreds of participating churches. Almost 50 requests were posted last week and many have been fulfilled.
Although the CarePortal network currently has no connection in southern Oklahoma, Campbell said he hopes this week’s experience on the cost of poverty in Ardmore will help him recruit about 15 churches from the region. The network currently operates in 23 counties and has served more than 15,000 foster children.
“You have great communities of people who care about you, but we need more help. We need more people, ”he said of the Ardmore area.
Those interested in engaging their church in Project 111 can find more information, including a full list of CarePortal support requests, online at https://www.111project.org/.