An upcoming event in intended to heighten community awareness about what it feels like to be part of a working low-income family in Red Deer.
Lori Jack, chair of the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA), said the poverty simulation on June 21, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., involves volunteers, some acting as low-income families, and others as bankers, pawnshop owners, childcare providers and such.
Every 15 minutes the “families” try to get through a week in their lives, with scenarios about how they get to their jobs, pay the bills and put food on the table, and then sometimes things happen, like the hot water tank fails. The experience is that at the end of the day they are exacerbated with stress, Jack said.
“That’s the experience of many of our families who are working poor in our neighbourhoods. They might be working full time, but … the hours aren’t necessarily full time and the wages are not necessarily sufficient to sustain yourself. It becomes a tricky balance. Those are the families trying to get to the food bank before they get home to get a meal on the table.”
Some city council members and City of Red Deer senior staff will be participating in the simulation, Jack said.
There’s often that perception that people who are poor aren’t working hard enough, Jack said. “Are they really not working hard enough? It takes a lot of skills to live with a low income because you navigate considerably more systems than the rest of us do.”
At the end of the simulation there is a debriefing. There’s always two or more groups of the same family type with the same issues, but how they handle their circumstances in the simulations always varies, Jack said.
Anyone can participate in the simulation, which takes place at the Radisson Hotel, 6500 67 St. Admission is free but space is limited to 80. Anyone interested can contact Jack by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier in the day, CAPRA is hosting a presentation about Red Deer’s Great Neighbours initiative, which encourages neighbours to get to know each other better.
“Block connectors” are recruited and trained to help neighbours meet through face-to-face connections, such as an activity. The initiative is funded by Red Deer and District Family and Community Support Services and facilitated by the City of Red Deer.
Jack said connecting with neighbours helps boosts physical and mental health, helps people feel safe when they watch out for each other and reduces isolation. It helps reduce poverty, for example, when neighbours can do things like trade childcare services.
The presentation takes place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Dawe Community Centre. It’s free and also open to anyone.