An upcoming event will have Central Albertans experience the hardships of families struggling to make ends meet.
The United Way of Central Alberta, Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance and the Radisson will host a Poverty Simulation Feb. 21.
“It creates a greater sense of empathy for those within the community,” said Lori Jack, United Way of Central Alberta community impact development officer.
“With the downturn in the economy these last few years there’s certainly a lot more people who have been living paycheque to paycheque.”
Jack said even though the economy is improving, it’s important to not lose sight of people who are still struggling.
People will be grouped into low-income families at the exercise and live through a month in 15-minute intervals.
The families will focus on tasks such as getting their children to daycare, working every day and getting groceries while maintaining their household.
“Over the month there are stressors that come along with unexpected things that happen and they have to learn to how make it through the month,” said Jack.
“Some succeed at it, some struggle with it and more often than not more than one family has to choose a life a crime because they need money to keep the house,” she said.
There has been about eight Poverty Simulations held in Central Alberta since 2014, including in Red Deer, Wetaskiwin and Hanna. The United Way also hosts simulations in Edmonton and Calgary.
Jack said every simulation she has been involved in has seen at least one family evicted at the end of the month.
“If you don’t make it to work one day because some unforeseen event, you don’t get income that day and therefore may not make rent at the end of the month,” she said.
After the simulation, participants are asked about the experience. Jack said the most common word she hears is “stress.”
“A lot of people don’t understand how stressful it is and what a high level of skill you’re required to have in order to manage life when finances are that tight.
“You need to be a lot more strategic about how you spend every penny and how you choose what you’re doing with your money,” she said.
There will be 20 volunteers at the event and a maximum of 88 participants.
“It looks different every time. It’s always interesting to see how personal dynamics play into how they choose to handle those stressors. It’s a great experience,” said Jack.
To register for the event, call 403-343-3900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.