Real-life scenarios to get a glimpse of poverty
REDMOND, ORE. (KTVZ) -- Some Central Oregonians got a rare chance Friday to see up close what poverty truly looks and feels like in our communities, and the challenges so many face in overcoming those obstacles.
The number of homeless people in Central Oregon, as measured in an annual, federally overseen "Point in Time" count in January, rose 17% to nearly 1,300, despite outreach team challenges posed by a surge in COVID-19 cases, according to the Homeless Leadership Coalition.
"We're trying to bring awareness to how broad poverty truly can be," said Hannah Reinhardt, Hope University manager for Rogue Retreat. "Because anybody can be that. People you encounter day-to-day might be living in any one of these circumstances."
There were around 30 participants and 20 volunteers. Participants are assigned a new identity and put into a household with others -- all based on real people and experiences.
The simulation itself represents one month of poverty, so 15 minutes represents one week.
NewsChannel 21's Carly Keenan participated. She played the role of a 20-year-old college student who had a 1-year-old baby. She lived with her single dad who worked full time. After their monthly expenses, the family was still short about $20.
John Nielsen, a candidate for the Redmond City Council, played Keenan's dad -- they had to work as a team to survive.
Depending on your character, participants go to work or places around town, like the pawn shop, or social services.
Everyone had to use a transportation pass to get anywhere. Each household is issued different assets, either in their homes like a microwave, or even jewelry to pawn.
However, there were many challenges along the way.
Keenan and Nielsen's home was robbed, and all their assets and car were stolen -- leaving them to figure out how to make ends meet, all while taking care of other responsibilities.
While the simulation only scratches the surface of what poverty is like, Nielsen says it was still challenging.
"I think it's really informative, I think it's really helpful. I think a lot of people don't realize how difficult it is to try and navigate the system," Nielsen said. "Not knowing what resources are available to you is hard enough, but then having to jump through all of the hoops to try and find the resources that are available becomes a full-time job."
After the simulation, participants and facilitators gathered for a group discussion to reflect on the experience.
"Poverty is brutal and it is crushing and it doesn't care who you are," Nielsen said. "It doesn't care where you started."