The Emotional Cost Of Poverty

Posted by Colleen Rice

Stress. Transportation. Drug Abuse. These topics and more came out of the poverty simulation led by Leadership Medina County on Friday, April 29, 2016. Thirty participants and twenty-two community volunteers came together for a realistic simulation portraying the barriers of poverty. Many left the simulation with new opinions about poverty and a desire to serve people in our community. Participants expected that they would struggle through the four 15 minute weeks, but many were surprised at how much stress they felt at the end of the simulation. Problems swirled around every table including evictions, shut off notices, food insecurity, and lack of transportation. When the whistle blew indicating week one had begun the room buzzed with uncertainty. No one knew what life had just dealt them or where to go for help. By week four, some families had a plan and others were headed for the homeless shelter.

One participant said, “There is an emotional cost associated with being poor. Not being able to pay or afford basic needs is very stressful.”

During the debrief, participants were also surprised by the many community resources they never thought to visit for help during the simulation. Representatives from United Way of Medina County, Medina County Job and Family Services, Feeding Medina County, the YMCA, Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, First Impression, Hospice of Medina County, and the Office for Older Adults played the roles of service providers during the simulation along with other Leadership Medina County alumni and community members. The service providers educated participants during the debrief about actual services provided in Medina County. Some local resources like 211 First Call for Help ( would have reduced the stress of the participants if they had been available during the simulation. The debrief left many feeling confident that Medina County has a strong safety net supporting people with needs and a keen understanding that there is still more work to be done. For now, every single person left with greater empathy for low-income families and a commitment to make a difference in the war on poverty.

For more information about implementing a poverty simulation with your group, contact Leadership Medina County at 330-721-7118.

Pictured: Jocelyn Stefancin from the Public Defender’s office shares her experience at the Poverty Simulation. She said the simulation was a real life example of people living in poverty and a good reminder about the realities of poverty. Sean Parker, Office for Older Adults, looks on as Jocelyn shares about their simulation family. Sean played the role of a pregnant teenager during the simulation.

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