South Country Hosts Community Action Poverty Simulation Program

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About sixty-four people experienced the virtual realities of poverty in a unique poverty simulation conducted recently by South Country Central School District. The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) Program was designed to help people better understand the realities of poverty. Participants included South Country Central School District staff, community members, and community leaders.

“This program helps people understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day,” said Rosa Kalomiris, South Country School District’s Family Engagement Center Coordinator. “With a greater awareness of its impact, we can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.”

Using a simulation kit, participants role-played the lives of low-income families. Some were TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients, some were disabled, and others were senior citizens on Social Security. They had the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” They interacted with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

More than 15% of New Yorkers are living at or below federal poverty level, according to the 2015 census. An additional 5% individuals have incomes just above the poverty level. These total more than 20% of New Yorkers struggling to meet their basic needs. The number of children living in poverty or borderline poverty in Suffolk County in 2015 was 29,144 and climbing each year.  On average, 55% of South Country Central School District’s students receive free or reduced lunch in comparison to an average of 33% of children receiving free or reduced lunch in Suffolk County.

“This is the everyday reality of thousands of New Yorkers.  Understanding that reality will help us change it,” said Ms. Kalomiris.

CAPS enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities, said Elaine West, executive director of the Missouri Association for Community Action, which made the simulation available nationwide.

The simulation was 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.

The Missouri Association for Community Action is a network of community action agencies throughout the state that provide a variety of services to low-income individuals and families. Please visit their website at to find out more about the poverty simulation. (Community Action Network, 2017)