Poverty Simulations

  • Poverty Simulations are currently offered in a flexible, virtual format.

Groups of ten or more who are interested in learning about and connecting with the complex issues surrounding poverty on a deeper, more personal level, can now register for the Virtual Poverty Awareness Experience.

Facilitated by a member of the Crisis Assistance Ministry team, this experience consists of three segments:

  • An overview of Crisis Assistance Ministry and its role in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community
  • An online simulation experience designed to invoke deeper understanding and empathy surrounding the realities of living with limited financial resources
  • A guided group discussion focused on sharing perspectives, understanding challenges, and discussing the collective action needed to create a better society for everyone

The experience is designed for adult learners who live or work in Mecklenburg County. It is conducted via Zoom and can be customized for corporate groups, houses of worship, higher education, and more.

Crisis Assistance Ministry does not charge for facilitating this activity, but donations are greatly appreciated as they help fund the agency’s mission.

What is a Poverty Simulation?

A Poverty Simulation is a facilitated two-hour immersive experience designed to create awareness among participants of life at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Participants are assigned to “families” who do their best to survive week-to-week over a simulated one-month period. The simulation presents participants with real-life scenarios and challenges faced by people living in poverty.  The exercise is immediately followed by a group debrief, during which participants reflect on the experience, discuss insights, and consider next steps.

Participants often tell us they will never forget the overwhelming stress and hopelessness they felt as they walked in the shoes of someone facing poverty.

Since 2008, Crisis Assistance Ministry has been the local lead facilitator of the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS), which is owned by the Missouri Community Action Network.  In the last four years alone, nearly 7,000 local citizens, including community leaders, business professionals, and members of faith communities, have experienced a simulation sponsored by our agency.  They often leave shaken by the role play, telling us they will never forget the overwhelming stress and hopelessness they felt as they walked in the shoes of someone facing poverty.

The ultimate goal of the Poverty Simulation is to transform these insights into action.  Executives have changed policies at their place of work and teachers have pledged to change how they treat children at school as a result of their participation.

If you are interested in hosting a poverty simulation, please contact us by email.

If you are interested in learning more about the Missouri Community Action Network or purchasing a CAPS kit license, please visit communityaction.org or povertysimulation.net.

Participant Testimonials

Poverty Simulation F.A.Q.

Will Medicaid Expansion Help Mecklenburg?

This long-awaited move by North Carolina will provide welcome relief to many low-wage earners who often are not offered health insurance through their employers. Considering the struggles of working families here in Mecklenburg County, there are certainly thousands who will benefit from Medicaid expansion in our own community. Based on evidence from other states, it’s likely all of us will reap the benefits of improved community health, lower eviction rates, and a stronger safety net for our neighbors.

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Hear Pulitzer Prize-winning Matthew Desmond

We are proud to partner with Davidson College to co-host Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond on their campus. Desmond’s thought-provoking message will help us understand the systemic issues contributing to poverty and inspire us to be part of the solution here in our own community. 

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“Poverty, By America”: New Book Asks the Hard Questions

Does poverty exist because we want it to? In his new book, “POVERTY, BY AMERICA,” Matthew Desmond asks this and other provocative questions about persistent poverty in our land of plenty.

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On Juneteenth, Equity, Equality, and Freedom

Juneteenth marks a celebration of freedom—at least in the legal sense of the word.  But it also evokes several bitter truths surrounding emancipation and its legacy. We see the ripples of that legacy here every day as we work to help our neighbors whose struggles are made more difficult by the social and systemic legacies of chattel slavery in the United States.
As we reflect on a historic moment in time, we can’t overlook the centuries of disenfranchisement that have followed legal emancipation and consider whether true freedom, equity, and equality have yet to arrive for many of our fellow citizens.

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Should NC Implement Child Tax Credits?

Back in March of 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan, Congress expanded an important tax benefit: The Federal Child Tax Credit. The credit, originally enacted as part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, was increased from $2,000 to $3,000 per child ages 6-17, and to $3,600 per child below the age of 6.  The bill also made an important change to the credit: making it fully refundable. Even if parents owed less in taxes than the credit covered, they could still receive the full refund.
The effects were remarkable.

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Black History Month: Resisting the Status Quo

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is “Resistance”, a single word that encompasses so much. Through the centuries, a long line of brave and committed Black Americans have battled injustice, some on the public stage and others behind the scenes. But for every high-profile or large-scale act of resistance, countless others go unnoticed. At Crisis Assistance Ministry, every day, we see brave and committed Black Charlotteans struggling to resist the forces of an unjust society right here in Mecklenburg County.

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Can Baby Bonds Ease the Racial Wealth Gap?

The impacts of wealth inequalities are quite evident every day at Crisis Assistance where we see people, through no fault of their own, struggling to pay rent, keep the lights on, and afford clothes for their children. In a community that is majority white, the overwhelming majority of people who seek help with basic needs here are Black and Hispanic. But the reality is that the nonprofit sector can only do so much to address the long-term struggles of the economically disenfranchised. Systemic policies have created and sustained the continued wealth gap, and it will require a systemic approach to reverse that impact.

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Transforming Unjust Systems: MLK Day 2023

Martin Luther King Day, the only federal holiday designated as a day of service, is observed on the third Monday of January, near his birth date of January 15. It is a time to not only reflect on his life and legacy but also to find ways to further his work toward racial and economic justice. Fifty-five years after his death, Dr. King’s dream has yet to come true. Although progress has been made in many areas, there is still much work to be done.

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Guaranteed Basic Income for Charlotteans?

With the winter upon us, families in Charlotte, and across the country, are struggling to make ends meet. Inflation growth has outpaced wage growth, resulting in a three percent decline in real hourly earnings. People are working harder than ever but still falling behind on rent and utilities. The amount of their past due bills is increasing but their paychecks are not. To put it simply, people need more money. But should we use policy to get more money into the hands of those who need it the most?

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