Kourtney’s ‘mile walk in their shoes’

In an effort to check out a poverty simulation I have been wanting to purchase on behalf of HOME, Inc., I attended the ReThink Poverty Simulation: Walk a mile in “their” shoes at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.  I assumed the role of Nola Nattin-Netter, a fifteen-year-old girl. I lived with both of my parents and my disabled grandfather who was unable to do anything on his own. My father worked full-time, my mother was unemployed and I attended high school full-time and worked at the grocery store part-time.

At the start of the simulation, the facilitator made sure to express that this was not a game. In fact, these families and story lines were based on real life people. Throughout the room, there were tables with people playing the roles of community services including a grocery store, bank, hospital, employer, school, childcare center, pawn shop,transportation center, homeless shelter, jail and juvie (I may have ended up there, twice). The simulation itself was made up of four, fifteen minute weeks. During the week, we had to make sure we paid our bills, got groceries, went to school and work. By the end of the simulation, we needed to pay all of our bills to avoid eviction.

By the end, my family was able to pay most of our bills, except half of our utilities. In real-life, that would mean our electric would have been turned off. We also forgot food two out of the four weeks. At one point, I had gotten a broken arm, but I was detained in juvie for running errands unsupervised so I could not go to the hospital to get it fixed. I felt an immense amount of anxiety for my parents. It felt as though there was a lack of resources and a knowledge of what was available to us. Transportation was key. If we did not have transportation passes we could not travel to any of the community providers. In the moment, it was incredibly frustrating, but it is exactly like real life. You need money for gas, bus tickets, etc. The simulation definitely challenged my morals. I stole $30 from school and lied regularly to avoid juvie. I was making poor choices in an attempt to help my parents meet our needs for the month. As a fifteen-year-old kid, I did not have too many responsibilities, but I saw how much my parents were struggling to make ends meet. We were stuck in a cycle of generational poverty.

For the sake of the poverty simulation, I would say we succeeded. But at what costs? Neglect, loneliness,anxiety, and lying were regular aspects of our life. We barely made ends meet with no way to get ahead.

As I reflect on the poverty simulation, I have a new found sense of compassion and patience for those experiencing poverty. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was required to go through this simulation? Well, stay tuned, because hopefully HOME, Inc. will be able to invest in a poverty simulation of our own to bring more awareness to the poverty crisis and the resources available in our community.

Thanks for reading,

Kourtney Kirkpatrick, MPA

Fundraising Director

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