I've been poor. There were no food stamps when I was growing up, but our family qualified for the government commodities program. I remember standing in line with my parents waiting to pick up staples such as potatoes and powdered milk and giant blocks of orange-looking cheese. I guess that qualifies me to have a skeptical attitude about this:
Area residents are invited to experience the virtual realities of poverty in a simulation hosted by Community Action of Northeast Indiana May 20 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at The Freemasons Hall, 216 E. Washington Blvd., Fort Wayne.
[. . .]
This program helps people understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day,” said Steve Hoffman, CANI executive director. “With a greater awareness of its impact, we can more effectively address the poverty issues in our community.”
Using a simulation kit, participants will role-play the lives of low-income families. Some are TANF recipients, some are disabled, and others are senior citizens on Social Security. They will be faced with the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” They will interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.
Ah, the "virtual realities of poverty." Let's be charitable and just call it well-intentioned but misguided to suppose that we can "understand the complexities and frustrations of living in poverty day to day" by using a "simulation kit" in which a week is 15 minutes. We can no more grasp poverty in a three-hour workshop than those students with their empathetic camping can grasp homelessness by sleeping on the lawn overnight. The reality of poverty is not "day to day," it's "day after day after day" in which nothing ever changes except for the worst and hope dims with every one of them. You can't begin fathom that if you know you're going back to your regular life as soon as the simulation ends in three hours.
And's what's the purpose of the exercise? To learn how to make the poor more comfortable in their circumstances? Volunteer for a soup kitchen. To help them escape their poverty, a far nobler intent? Become a literacy tutor. Merely to become a more sensitive, understanding person? Watch PBS.
Poverty sucks. Don't be poor. End of lesson, and you have 2 hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds to spare.