Please note, due to COVID-19, many programs are operating with modifications. For current hours and program information, please visit:

Poverty Simulations

Poverty Simulations are a series of role-playing scenarios that give participants the opportunity to learn about the realities of poverty and its impact on society as a whole. Participants adopt a new persona and family profile for the purpose of the exercise.

Participants navigate through daily tasks that many of us take for granted. During four 15-minute “weeks,” those assigned adult roles try to maintain their home, feed their families, send their children to school, and retain utility services while trying to navigate local supports and resources. Those assuming the roles of children have an opportunity to see what it is like to go to school, and cope with family dynamics, peer pressure, and the need for love and attention within the context of a family in poverty. The outcome of the simulation is unpredictable and demonstrates how strategizing with limited resources can make meeting even the most basic needs very challenging for a family.

A poverty simulation can be a profoundly moving experience. It is thought provoking and promotes insightful conversation about the realities of poverty. It demonstrates the importance of a community working together to address the problem of poverty. Most importantly, it inspires action and moves people to get involved in making a difference.

As the simulation concludes, participants come together to discuss their experience. The power of this unique learning resource is its ability to provide real insight into the barriers that low-income families face daily, and to motivate participants to work for change in their communities.

Who should participate?

Any group of 40 or more people can participate in a simulation. CAP has presented simulations for civic organizations, businesses, community groups, college student groups, faith-based organizations, school faculty, and community organizations, among others.

How can I host a poverty simulation?

In order to host an event, your organization will need:

  • 40 – 80 participants*
  • A large room — approximately 3,000 square feet
  • Tables and chairs for the participants and 20 – 25 volunteers to stage the event

COVID-19 Update

Due to COVID-19, we are unable to host the simulations in person. We will be holding them virtually!

Is there a cost to hold a poverty simulation?

We suggest a donation in the range of $500- $1,000 to the Community Action Program of Lancaster County for those organizations with the means to do so. Otherwise, there is no cost other than those associated with the above requirements.

Partial or full scholarships available.

*smaller groups may participate, please contact for further details

Poverty Simulations - Request Information