Poverty Simulations

Supporting Efforts to Fight Poverty in our Community

The impact of poverty on our community is both devastating and accelerating.  Under the direction of the Rochester-Monroe County Anti-Poverty Initiative, significant work is underway to address this issue through the development of a comprehensive, collaborative and community-driven approach.   Building awareness across our community, activating existing resources, and fostering innovation will be critical to the success of the initiative. 

With support from Rochester Area Community Foundation and Wegmans, Coordinated Care Services, Inc. has begun hosting Poverty Simulations.  This powerful exercise is designed to help community leaders, health and human service providers, area businesses, and other community stakeholders deepen their understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by those living in poverty and how current systems, policies, and practices create barriers.  

How does it work? 

The poverty simulation is a highly interactive experience designed to help participants begin to understand what a typical low-income family experiences trying to survive from month to month. In the simulation, participants assume the roles of family members in poverty.   Volunteers play the roles of service providers and other community resources (e.g., bank, employer, grocery, Department of Social Services, landlord, school, child care, and law enforcement, etc.).  

Cultural Competence and Health Literacy (e.g. health and systemic inequities, Social Determinants of Health, structural racism, implicit bias, language barriers, cultural nuances, etc.), as well as critical points related to your organization's area of service, are incorporated into the Poverty Simulation, making the experience resonate with professionals regarding emerging and concerning issues associated with community and health outcomes paired with the relative impact of poverty on the people you serve, all to support your organization's effort to improve service delivery and patient/consumer/client outcomes.

The exercise runs for approximately 3 hours - a 30-minute registration process, 2-hour simulation, and 30-minute debriefing session.  Poverty simulations will be led by CCSI’s Cultural Competence team and facilitated by Lenora-Reid Rose, Director of Cultural Competence and Diversity Initiatives and other staff.   

Click here to see the room set-up for a poverty simulation.


Check out a video from our recent workshop


Click here to see photos from our Poverty Simulations.

Watch this News 8 WROC news story about how poverty simultions increas empathy among healthcare professionals



Director – Cultural Competence and Health Equity

Ms. Reid-Rose leads CCSI’s work in the areas of Cultural Competence and Health Equity. With more than two decades of experience in the behavioral health field, she has served as a consultant and educator at the state, regional and national levels. Ms. Reid-Rose has extensive expertise in developing and implementing cultural competence assessments, training initiatives, and programs - helping agencies understand where they are on the continuum of cultural competence and then identifying...Read More



Senior Consultant Cultural Competence & Health Equity

Nancy Sung Shelton, M.A., works in the capacity of Senior Consultant, Cultural Competence & Health Equity at Coordinated Care Services, Inc. In her role, Nancy provides an array of consultation, technical assistance, and training support to organizations, their leaders, workforce, service recipients, and stakeholders. She has more than twenty years of experience working with diverse populations in a variety of management and leadership positions. Her work...Read More

 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Poverty Simulation Workshops

Evaluation results suggest that RACF’s goals of helping to create greater awareness of and sensitivity to the challenges faced by individuals living in poverty were achieved. Click here to read more about Assessing the Impact of Poverty Simulation Workshops. 

Feedback from Participants

"I was completely blown away by the level of frustration and anxiety that I felt trying to maneuver as a single teenage mom even for just that hour! I really feel that this experience will help me to better empathize with patrons having a difficult time, as well as come up with more thoughtful programs..."

“This was one of the most profound learning experiences I have had in decades. It is life changing!”

“I assumed ahead of time that we would be given scarce resources and have to figure out how to get by.  I underestimated the impact of actually trying to do those things - the chaos, the feeling of hopelessness, the "pushiness" of others - it was really a scenario of survival of the fittest.    I have a new respect for the working poor.”

“I will try my best to put myself in other's shoes and have compassion for the struggles that some of these people have to live with on a daily basis.”

“When approached by people with attitudes. I will remind myself of their possible living conditions.”

“I have a greater understanding of the stress created by having so much to do with limited resources and time.”

Featured Articles

The University of New Mexico College of Nursing held its first Poverty Simulation Workshop giving their students a glimpse into what their future patients might be going through, thus preparing them to be better nurses. Check out this great video featuring UNM Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, Carolyn Montoya, PhD, RN, as well as nursing students form the program as they share how the workshop impacted them.

Democrat and Chronicle Executive Editor Mike Kilian participated in a poverty simulation for Rochester's media and communications professionals.  He shared his experience, and how it reinforced his commitment to guiding insightful journalism, that points out needs and offers solutions in a perceptive and compassionate manner for the greater good of all.  Read his article here.

Karen Fine from Westside News shared her feedback from the poverty simulation.  "The experience was overwhelming to me," she said.  "I can't imagine if my family had ever lost their home and had to live in a shelter, in a car or on the streets, with nowhere to turn, no support system."  Click here to read more about how she and her "family" better understand the day-to-day challenges faced by those living in poverty.

CCSI conducted a poverty simulation in Livingston County hosted by the Livingston County Department of Health, in conjunction with the Genesee Valley Health Partnership.  Read the article to learn more about this eye opening experience, including participants' insightful reactions.

Library systems from the Finger Lakes region brought together community leaders to participate in a poverty simulation where participants had the opportunity to “walk in the shoes” of individuals struggling with poverty. The goal of this exercise is to create empathy and understanding, and raise awareness of how biases, policies and practices work to create barriers in the community. Ultimately, they hope that library staff and their partners improve upon the services and resources they provide to their communities. Click here to read more.

How Can I Help? 

If you are interested in volunteering please click here.


How Can I Host? 

If you are interested in hosting a simulation for your business or organization, click here, and we’ll provide you with some additional information. 

Need More Information?

If you need more information about the simulation exercises, click here.