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I attended the Poverty Simulation put on by TEAMwork for Quality Living on

Monday, March 23rd. I had always thought “why do I need to go, I grew up in
poverty.” I took this opportunity to enhance my knowledge in the adult aspect of
poverty, and it was eye-opening.
I was given the following family: Albert Aber, age 42, is a computer
programmer with a college education. He had been employed at the same company
for 20 years when he was laid off four months ago. He has yet to find employment.
He was receiving unemployment compensation but this has now run out. Ann Aber
(played by me), age 39, has some college experience and is employed full-time as a
receptionist at General Hospital. She was recently diagnosed with cancer. Alice
Aber, age 16, is in good health and is a highly motivated high school sophomore
looking forward to going to college, but she is pregnant and due in two months. Al
Jr., age 10, ends up watching his younger brother often even though he is too young
because Alice likes to take off with her boyfriend. And Andy, age 8, is in grade
school and gives his brother a hard time when he has to watch him. He also has
cerebral palsy.
The information I was given about this family was that we live in a middleclass suburb in a three-bedroom home which we are paying a mortgage. The house
needs several repairs and insulation to help reduce our monthly utilities and make it
more comfortable. We have student loans. We have two vehicles: one paid for but
unreliable and the other still has a loan we are paying off. We had been using our
credit cards as a means of survival, but now our cards have reached their maximum
limit. I have health insurance through work but it is too expensive to cover my
husband and children. We have no insurance at the time.
We were given the following budget where the only source of income was my
employment at $9.00/hour at 40hours/week for a total of $1,324 after taxes. The
housing cost per month is $610 (mortgage $500, taxes $60, and maintenance $50).
The utilities are $285 per month (gas $185, electric $75, and phone $25). We have
two loans, my student loans at $100 per month and our car loan at $250 per month.
We also spend $40 a month on clothing and $110 per week on food. Our credit card
payment is $150 per month. We have $200 in savings. After doing the math, this
leaves my family with a $351 dollar difference.
We started off with a plan. We were going to go to the bank and withdraw
some of our savings so we can pay for the food upfront. The line at the bank was
very long and by the time we were served there wasn’t enough time left to go to the
supermarket for our food. We went without food for the first week. We were unable
to cash my paychecks until the third week, causing us to once again go without
food. We had our utilities shut off because we couldn’t get any assistance from the
social services bureau. I was arrested while at work because the police found my
children at home with drugs. I missed two weeks of pay. Inevitably, we got evicted
from our home and spent two weeks in a homeless shelter.
It was a disaster. Everything fell apart. It was incredible how we could have a
plan one minute and then boom! you were sitting in a homeless shelter. I had no
idea how slippery of a slope poverty is. Like I mentioned before, I grew up in
poverty. At one point I was living with some of my father’s friends because we had
gotten evicted, again. But growing up, you don’t see this aspect. You just see that
you aren’t getting the attention you need from your parents so you act out, getting

attention for all the wrong reasons. You only see that your mom quit her job and
now you can’t go out to eat anymore. You don’t see that your mom had to quit her
job because of her disability. You don’t understand why you are eating the same
vegetable soup every single day because that’s what the food bank had the most of.
You just don’t understand how extreme everything is when you’re so young. I
certainly didn’t.
Because of this poverty simulation, I can now say I somewhat understand
what my mom and dad were going through. I felt helpless, overwhelmed, scared,
and it was only a simulation. I can’t imagine what my parents felt like going through
this, especially with a limited support system. I thought I had what it takes to work
with those living in poverty simply because I had lived in poverty. How wrong I was.
I now know how much effort, time, and planning it takes to just simply survive when
living in poverty.