Stateside: Poverty simulations

Nov 12, 2012

To better inform those unfamiliar with the challenges faced by the impoverished and homeless, Julie Steiner will host a poverty simulation tomorrow night at the Michigan Theater.

Steiner, the director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, spoke with Cyndy about Washtenaw County’s poverty problem.

Steiner began by explaining the functions of a poverty simulation.

“We found one that was developed in Durham, North Carolina. It allows you to go through and make decisions about daily life as though you were someone with a very limited budget. It gives you your budget and tells you to find a job and then every slide has a consequence. Then something happens, like you get a flat tire or your child gets sick and you have to stay home from work. It’s very realistic,” said Steiner.

One of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance’s main goals is to eliminate the myths surrounding homelessness and the people whom it affects.  

“There are so many myths about poverty and homelessness. One of the biggest in Washtenaw County is that there isn’t any poverty. In 2011, we had over 4,000 people who experienced homelessness. We want to show people that when you’re living in poverty you are a moment away from losing your home,” said Steiner.

Across the state, the causes of poverty are rather similar, says Steiner.

“For single adults, it often has to do with substance abuse disorders and also with chronic unemployment. For families who are homeless, it is being evicted, unemployed or incredibly underemployed. The biggest differences around the state are the cost of living. Washtenaw County is the most expensive rental market in the state,” said Steiner.

With funding for aid programs constantly being cut, Steiner explains there are still some challenges facing both the county and the entire state.

“We don’t have enough money. It’s being cut all the time at the state level. It feels like there is a war on the poor. There are lots of good programs, though. We have rapid re-housing money. Our county and city governments are putting in money to help people. One of the things we know about people who live in poverty is that they’re very resilient. Most of the time they are able to figure something out for themselves,” said Steiner.

-Cameron Stewart

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