By CHRIS BOLT & JOHN SMITH & ERIKA BRIGUGLIO
From WAER News
Some Onondaga County residents took the morning off from work to be thrust into poverty; based on real-life situations… so they can make a difference.
More than 120 people were cast into the lives of 15 families and jam packed their one week schedule of challenges into 15 minute increments. These aren’t professional actors here but people taking part in the simulation took on realistic roles.
“Thank you for getting my medication,” said one participant. Others added, “where do we buy the medicine I wonder,” “but remember the pawn shop closes at a certain time.”
Their time keeper is Rhonda O’Connor, the Director of Community Engagement at Visions for Change. She says the lives participants are leading can be very complicated.
“We have a family that maybe is multi-generational with grandma living with them. We have families that maybe the husband is incarcerated”
The role playing includes: how to keep their families afloat; seeking the social services they need; and dealing with kids who are often left hanging in the balance. Chelsea was assigned to role play a 10-year-old… she’s sitting at a table coloring.
“My mom didn’t pay the electric bill and my dad can’t get a job cause he’s on probation and I was just in jail too so I was wandering the streets. I left school and I had nowhere to go, nobody was home so a cop picked me up.”
While some kids are displaced, others are welcomed into homes with more struggles.
“We actually just took in our nephew who’s going to college full time and we’re trying very hard to support him,” said one of the participants. “Unfortunately I lost my job. I’ve been looking for jobs but really haven’t been able to find anything so we actually have had to sell some things.”
And how do they feel about the simulated poverty experience? Out of character, Jordan Eubanks and Paula Trief actually met for the first time today and reflected on the glimpse they got of the lives others lead.
If you want to envision how many people are affected by poverty in our local area, O’Connor at Visions for Change offers this analogy.
“If you fill the Carrier Dome up that’s how many people are in poverty”