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Simulation at UCA offers different, realistic view on poverty

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It was like a game of Life playing out at the University of Central Arkansas on Tuesday afternoon.

The "Living on the Edge" poverty simulation gave participants a look at everyday struggles of living with limited resources.

"Participants can start to look at poverty through a new lens,” said Amy Whitehead, director of the Community Development Institute at UCA.

During the simulation, participants are assigned a fictional family. For nearly three hours, they have to juggle work, school and home life, all in poverty.

"They're given a lot of challenges and very limited resources, which is what it's like to live in poverty," said Whitehead.

Families were being evicted, bills were mounting, and offenders thrown in jail.

All the scenarios mimicked real life hardships people in poverty experience often.

"I had to make sure I could re-up my benefits,” said Taine Duncan, a participant. “I was at risk of losing them, [and] I never had a job."

Duncan, a professor at UCA, was a teenage single mother during the project, living in a mobile home.

She saw reflections of her students and her own mother.

"No, she wasn't a single mom, my father was in the picture, but we moved around a lot for different job opportunities,” said Duncan. “She was a teenage mother. She didn't have an education. I was first generation."

Corey Parks acted as the difficult co-owner of a pawn shop, cheating needy people out of money.

"People are so quick to assume that because someone is in poverty that it is because actions of their own, but they don't realize they're not working because they don't have reliable transportation,” said Parks. “And without that reliable transportation they can't drop their kids off, they can't go to work.

Presenters hope the experience will make people more careful about classifying people living in poverty.

There were over 50 participants in the simulation.

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