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UWFK Facilitates Poverty Simulation

On Saturday, February 4th, UWFK was invited to facilitate a poverty simulation for Leadership Monroe County Class XXV. The simulation was designed to help participants understand some of the choices and experiences a person living in poverty may deal with during the course of a simulated month.

Twenty LMC class members randomly chose twenty different roles to participate in. Each simulated role reflected the realities faced by an adult living in poverty in the Keys.  Many were parents struggling to navigate the difficulties of providing food, shelter, and adequate childcare. Other roles included seniors living on social security income with significant health issues such as HIV.

Along with the twenty class members, UWFK CEO Kate Bauer-Jones acted as the director of the simulation and ten volunteers acted as the simulation’s “vendors”. Vendors were included in the simulation to teach participants about what it feels like to navigate the benefits system while also interacting with high stress individuals such as landlords. Vendors included a caseworker, a pawnbroker, a grocer, and a quick cash exchange worker among others.

The group “lived” through four fifteen minute weeks with breaks in between to reflect and restate goals. By the end of the simulation, some “families” were homeless and others had their utilities cut off. During reflections, vendors shared how difficult it was for them to have to turn families away from services they desperately needed. Participants stated that the experience was a powerful, albeit brief, look into the often overwhelming obstacles people in poverty face on a daily basis.

UWFK thanks the LMC board for inviting us to share this experience with class XXV! If you are interested in having UWFK facilitate a poverty simulation for your organization, please contact the UWFK office at 305-735-1929 or email

*Participants review their assigned "families". 

*Chuck Licis uses food stamps to buy food from "grocer" Michael Shields.

*Daryl Birkhimer budgets for his month.



by Chelsea Wait