Most of us know intellectually that there is poverty in our own community, but not all of us have had a real taste of what it is like to live in poverty — to not have enough money or resources to provide ourselves with the basic needs of food , clothing and shelter,

But for about 15 percent of Citrus County residents, poverty is a daily reality, and recently a group of community leaders went through a simulation exercise where they had to navigate through the realities of poverty in an effort to help those who are not in poverty to understand the challenges of their neighbors who are.

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During the program, each “family” in the simulation had to maintain their house, buy food, keep utilities on, make loan payments, pay for clothing, keep children in school and survive unexpected costs.

These unexpected costs forced these families to react on the fly and not be sidetracked by another dilemma that forced them to make painful choices like whether to pay the utility bill or make the rent payment.

The objective of the exercise is to give participants a taste of what poverty feels like, and how it creates multiple stresses, placing pressures on families that are forced to make difficult choices that can combine to create additional difficulties.

The ultimate goal of the program is to help people experience the realities of poverty and to drive home the point that there is no single program that will cure poverty, since there are many underlying causes. These include job loss, medical expenses, the high cost of housing, alcohol or drug addiction or getting into legal trouble.

Also, there are levels of poverty. What is sometimes called absolute poverty means that the person does not have the ability to afford the minimal standards of life-sustaining essentials such as food, clothing shelter, sanitation and access to health care.

There is also relative poverty, which means a family has a significantly lower income than others in the community. For example, in the United Sates, there are households that have a refrigerator, a television and perhaps an air conditioner and are considered to be in poverty because they have so much lower income than others in the community, though in some parts of the world they would be considered wealthy.

But regardless cause, and regardless of the level of poverty of an individual family, the reality of living in poverty is something most people with jobs, a home and car, and enough money to buy food and other necessities have difficulty understanding. This program is designed to let people experience that reality, even if only for a short time, and hopefully to educate them about the realities many of their fellow citizens experience daily.

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