Living on the Edge: more than just balancing budgets

United Way Halton & Hamilton pilots poverty simulator

Poverty has many faces. Poverty touches many lives. Poverty impacts our communities.

One in 10 people in the Halton region live below the poverty line. One in three seniors live below the poverty line. Those statistics are staggering. While most of us can only imagine what it’s like living in the shoes of society’s most vulnerable.

United Way Halton and Hamilton (UWHH) pilot a Poverty Simulator.

“This isn’t a game, it’s a simulator that immerses participants into a different life which involves making tough decisions while living in poverty,” said Anne Smith, United Way Halton & Hamilton Director of Stakeholder Engagement. “This is as real as it can get. Living below the poverty line is not easy, and the impacts are devastating. This simulator brings awareness to how hard it is for some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The Poverty Simulator was first developed in the United States and several Canadian United Way organizations piloted the initiative to create awareness to one of the most important social issues plaguing communities across the region.

In Halton, almost 11,000 children between the age of 0-14 years live in low income households, and 1 in every 10 children under 6 years lives in poverty. In Hamilton, 10,443 residents are accessing food banks and in 2017 there were almost 800 homeless youth living on the streets.

“Poverty directly or indirectly touches everyone. We all know someone, whether a family member, friend or even neighbour who lives below the poverty line,” said Sarah Sabihuddin, United Way Halton & Hamilton Senior Manager of Community Impact. “This simulator is a great way to create awareness and spread the message that poverty is a real issue in our communities. And if the average person can feel what it’s like, then maybe they will be the change our communities need.”

During the pilot, hosted at the Unifor Local 707 in Oakville, over 45 volunteers from all walks of life participated in the Poverty Simulator to get hands on experience as to what it’s like living and not knowing where the next meal will come from.

“This pilot project was truly an experience,” said Eve Willis, a community volunteer who participated in the event. “Education is key when it comes to understanding the impacts of poverty in our communities. This simulator has the potential to be used as a tool for change and provide solutions to improve the lives of the most vulnerable.”

Thought provoking initiatives that engages and unites community members is one way to move the needle forward with the aspirations of eliminating poverty.

“In our region there are over 100,000 residents living in poverty, many of them children, seniors, single parents and individuals with disabilities. Poverty doesn’t discriminate,” said Brad Park, President and CEO of United Way Halton & Hamilton. “It’s a real, local issue that needs our immediate attention. Through community-based programming, we are working collectively with agencies, donors and volunteers on providing solutions that are driven by our neighbours for our neighbours.”

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