April 16, 2019

Over 70 USF students and 20 community volunteers will experience the virtual realities of poverty in a unique poverty simulation conducted April 16, at the University of Sioux Falls.

During the simulation, education, nursing and business students will role-play the lives of low-income families. Some are TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients, some are disabled, and some are senior citizens on Social Security. They have the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute “weeks.” They interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others. 

Across the United States, more than 7 million extremely low income families do not have a place to call home at night and half a million people are living on the street, in shelters or in their cars on any given night.

In Sioux Falls, the Union Gospel Mission on average serves about 70 people each night according to a American Community Survey. The Union Gospel Mission is just one of three locations to provide shelter in Sioux Falls. Additionally, in the first quarter of the 2017 school year, the Sioux Falls School District had already identified 438 students as being homeless and the Banquet had handed out 5,700 backpacks of school supplies to area students.

"For our education students, understanding the struggles families in poverty have to go through in order to simply survive and provide for their basic needs gives our future teachers the empathy necessary to teach the whole child emotionally, physically, mentally, and academically,” said Lisa Riddle, assistant professor of education at USF.  

Although play money is used, the simulation is not a game. It enables students to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities.  

"Understanding the struggles and frustrations of poverty provides our future nurses the opportunity to appreciate the realities and choices that persons living in poverty face every day, promoting empathy to look further into the aspects of healthcare that might be beyond one's control, such as proper nutrition, regular medical checkups or even the ability to carry out the healthcare team's recommendation," said Jill Pitz, assistant professor of nursing at USF.

The poverty simulation will be on April 16 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. in the Stewart Center. This year marks the third year the event has been held on campus, and 2019 holds the highest participation rate to date.

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