Lived experience of hard things


Last updated 5/11/2022 at Noon

Perspective is everything, and lived experience of hard things is one way to gain it. Another way is through guided simulation. As someone who has lived in poverty my entire adult life and is currently pushing 40, I want to share a great resource for you that I would love to see brought to the Sisters community next.

How would you manage living in poverty for a month? On May 20, Oasis Village in Redmond invites you to spend a few hours finding out. This poverty simulation will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Mountain View Fellowship, 1475 SW 35th St. It is free to attend, and lunch will be provided for participants and volunteers.

During this event, you’ll take on the role of family members facing a variety of challenging circumstances.

Each family is given a card explaining its unique situation.

Your task is to provide food, shelter, and other necessities by accessing various community resources over the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” In addition, volunteers — including people with lived experience of houselessness and/or poverty — play the roles of resource providers.

This allows individuals with firsthand knowledge to bring their perceptions to the exercise.

The simulation is conducted in a large room.

You’ll be seated in family groups with community resources located at tables around the perimeter of the room.

The activity lasts about three hours, including an introduction and briefing by the facilitator, the simulation exercise itself, and a guided reflection in which participants and volunteers share their observations and insights from the activity.

This simulation breaks down stereotypes by allowing participants to step into the real-life situations of others. Poverty is often portrayed as a stand-alone issue, but this event allows individuals to walk a month in the shoes of someone facing poverty, and to experience the complex and interconnected issues surrounding it. Examples of situations include:

• A single parent with limited resources and no transportation must find a way to get to work and get their child to day care.

• An elderly person must find a way to pay for both utilities and medication.

• A young adult must care for siblings while their parent is incarcerated.

• An elderly couple must raise their grandchildren while dealing with their own health and employment issues.

After the experience, individuals discuss what they’ve learned with their peers. This is one tool that helps participants rethink the challenges that millions of low-income people face every day. More importantly, this tool helps people identify areas of change that can directly impact the effects of poverty on our neighbors.

Feedback from participants has included comments like “I didn’t realize how hard it was to just do everyday things,” and “I really felt the stress of being poor and overwhelmed,” and “This simulation dramatically demonstrates how much time and energy many families have to give to survive from day to day. It quickly dispels the myth that people would do fine if they would only go out and get a job!”

Nearly 50 million Americans live in poverty today. Many more have incomes above the poverty line but low enough to qualify for programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBT/SNAP) and Medicaid. In short, many Americans live every day in need of support for even the most basic of human needs. In 2019, over 25 percent of the Sisters population lived in poverty, and those numbers grow each year thanks to increasing costs and the pandemic. While poverty is often equated with houselessness, many families and individuals who are housed also struggle financially.

It may be difficult for people who have more than they need to truly understand the challenges that families living in poverty experience each day - the decisions they have to make, the fears and frustrations they feel. That is why you are invited to gain a greater sense of what life can be like when you live in poverty. The poverty simulation provides participants with the opportunity to assume the roles of low-income family members living on a limited budget. The experience is divided into 15-minute sessions, each of which represents one week where you must provide for your family and maintain your home.

Register at

They are looking for more volunteers with lived experience of houselessness and/or poverty to be resource providers. Please contact Jim Cook at [email protected] to inquire.


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