JOHNSONBURG — About 115 people gathered at the Johnsonburg Fire Hall recently to put themselves in the shoes of those fighting poverty, according to Elk County Community Foundation Executive Director Paula Fritz Eddy.
The Poverty Simulation Event, hosted by the ECCF, Community Education Center and Northern Tier Community Action Corporation, was Aug. 13.
Eddy said the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS), a unique tool that helps people better understand the shortage of money and abundance of stress, was started around 10 years ago. Staff members of human-service agencies, school district representatives and local civic leaders participated.
“Understanding the day-to-day reality of poverty is important for everyone involved in fighting poverty — from policymakers to service providers,” Eddy said in a previous Courier Express article.
In a news release, CEC Executive Director Kate Brock said awareness is the key to more effectively addressing poverty issues.
The presentation used a simulation kit and represented low-income families such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, disabled people or senior citizens.
Participants were tasked with providing basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget throughout four 15-minute “weeks,” interacting with human rights agencies, bill collectors, police officers and others.
A recent study by the United Way of Pennsylvania called ALICE — Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed — showed between 24 and 36 percent of households in the area fall within the “working poor” range, Eddy said. The report also indicated between 10 and 15 percent of households in the Elk County area fall below the federal poverty level.
“This is the everyday reality of thousands of our neighbors,” said NTCAC Deputy Director Randy Metcalf in a news release. “Understanding that reality will help us change it.”