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Poverty Simulation Enlightens at Davis College

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It's National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and participants at Davis College got to experience what it feels like to live in poverty.

According to the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition, last year 1020 people were homeless in Broome County, which is just over 300 individuals on any given night.

To put this into perspective, United Way of Broome County partnered with the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition to host a poverty simulation exercise.

Event coordinator Rebecca Rathmell says, "It is what it sounds. It's an experience designed to give individuals an idea of what it might be like to live in a low income family facing poverty and surviving from month to month."

Around 60 participants were arranged in family units around the room and given a packet of information on their role in the family, their income, expenses and responsibilities.

Event volunteers were positioned at social service stations to help family units stay on top of their finances, which was easier said than done.

"Our goal this evening is to challenge stereotypes," said Rathmell.

"Poverty is easy to ignore. It's even easier to judge. So our goal tonight is not only to challenge assumptions but to foster empathy and really promote dignity as if those of us around us were our own family and friends."

According to the Broome County Health Department, just under 18 percent of Broome County residents live below the poverty level.

This number is over 2 percent higher than the level throughout both New York State and the U.S.