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




Director – Cultural and Linguistic Competence

With more than two decades of experience in the behavioral health field, Lenora has served as a consultant and educator at the state, regional and national levels. She 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 critical changes in policy, practice, education and training needed to support continued progress...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

“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.”

Featured Articles

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.