Poverty Workshop Shows the Complexity of Everyday Decisions

07/26/2018 by Rebecca Toews

Will you buy a car or rent an apartment? Where will you be able to afford to live? Will you live close to work, a busline, close to your children’s school, or close to a grocery store or laundromat? What kind of child care will you choose or are you limited based on your income and work hours?

Throughout the year, Bridging volunteers and staff interact with people who are struggling to make ends meet. About 90% of Bridging clients make less than $15,000 per year for their families. This statistic is staggering. Not only do we see the gratitude on the faces of the clients we serve but we also hear from people about some of the issues people deal with in finding affordable housing, employment and childcare. Clients often tell us how they overcame these obstacles, found a referring agency partner, and have finally received a referral for Bridging, to have their homes furnished.

These personal stories can often be difficult to understand for some. While it is impossible to really know what a particular client is going through, Bridging does offer a chance for our team of staff and volunteers to get a glimpse, however small, into the sometimes painstaking decisions a family must make in order to provide for themselves and their families. Bridging partners with Urban Immersion Service Retreats for a “Poverty Simulation” course. Through this workshop, led by experienced social services professionals, participants are tasked with making critical decisions on how to spend a limited monthly budget. This budget is actually set up at four-times the federal poverty level, and still participants struggled.

The biggest insight many realize after participating in this simulation is that there are actually very few “decisions” that one can make when living life paycheck-to-paycheck. When you live a life in poverty, *choice* is something that is often stripped away. While one would love to be able to choose to live in an area with little crime, great schools or a large back yard, if one can’t afford a vehicle or even a bus pass, those areas are off-limits.

Staff at Bridging understand that a simple simulation is not enough to ever gain an understanding of the complexities of poverty. We also understand that conversations surrounding poverty are uncomfortable and painful for many. This activity serves as a reminder to many that it is truly impossible to walk a mile in anyone else’s shoes. Want to learn more about Urban Immersion (@UISRmn) and their tailored trainings for your group? http://www.uisr-mn.org/trainings

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