The Cost of Poverty Experience: Disrupting Assumptions
40 million people live under the poverty line in the United States. For those isolated from this poverty, stereotypes portrayed in the media often foster uninformed assumptions, perceptions and attitudes.
“Maybe we wouldn’t all admit it ahead of time, but if you see someone struggle to pay a bill on time or get to work on time, you assume it’s because they are not responsible. And I think that is a misconception a lot of us have, that it’s always your fault if you’re late or that bill didn’t get paid on time.”
— Cost of Poverty (COPE) Participant
But if we understood the real cost of poverty for individuals, families, businesses and communities, would we respond differently?
The Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE) was developed by one of our partner organizations, Think Tank, to give participants an opportunity to experience what it would be like to live in poverty. Fifteen families shared their stories and helped co-design the simulation to represent their real-life scenarios. When you come to a COPE, you are assigned one of these family profiles and “live” a month of their life. Each week, simulated in 15-minute increments, you will have assignments to complete, bills to pay, groceries to buy, and tasks to address. The overarching goal is to end the month better than you began.
“The best way I would describe living in poverty after going through the COPE experience would be like living in a house of cards. You have to put things a certain way to be able to build up, even just a little bit. You think you are getting ahead, then one tiny little wind comes, and it’s all flat. You have to start all over again.”
— COPE Participant
Activate your community
COPE will alter your assumptions about living in poverty, catalyze your involvement in alleviation efforts, deepen your understanding of the complexities of poverty, and change your interactions with low-income individuals.
CarePortal adopted this experience as a teaching tool for Active Communities to bring greater awareness to the disproportionate number of families in poverty who are impacted by the child welfare system. COPE reveals some of the obstacles families served through CarePortal might be facing. Getting to the root of why the child welfare system is insufficient on its own to truly support family reunification and strengthening, you see how much the Church is needed to partner in this effort.
“Not only can it be life-changing, but it can advance new thinking, new strategies, and even new friendships and collaborations for those who share the experience.”
— Think Tank
Be on the lookout.
Each active CarePortal region hosts 1-2 COPE events a year. Reach out to your Regional Manager to find out about upcoming events near you.
If you’ve already experienced COPE, we encourage you to spread the word! Share this blog with family, friends, coworkers, and people in your congregation to activate others in your community.