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Making Cents of Being Poor

What do we mean when we talk about “poverty and the poor”? How do we define it? How we understand it affects how we respond to it in our culture. Historically the way we have understood poverty is that it is something that people can control, rather than something that is much more complex. A socially systemic issue that makes it almost impossible for people to escape.

If poverty is seen as an individual problem than a community one, than we don’t have to address community concerns such as living wages, lack of affordable housing, lack of public transportation, lack of availability for quality childcare, and lack of healthcare. Unfortunately, the traditional view in our country I believe is that it is an individual concern; that if a person is having difficulty it is their own fault.

In addition to that, we are outdated on how we measure it . The data that has  been used to define poverty in the U.S. was originated in the 1960’s and didn’t take into concern factors such as regional differences in the cost of living across the country. The government did release a new experimental poverty measure last year, however it will not replace the one currently in place. Even though the new version sees more people in poverty.

We need to re-evaluate how we understand poverty in this country and we need to look deeply at how to tackle this problem. Part of this involves challenging the beliefs we currently have. Jack Register, activist and social work professor at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is aiming to challenge these beliefs in our society. As part of the social work department’s celebration for Social Work month, Jack Register is conducting an interactive experiential guided exercise that will give participants a firsthand look at the state of chronic crisis that plagues so many of our citizens.

This exercise walks participants into an alternate universe of second class living that many people do not experience. This poverty simulation is called Making Cents of Being Poor, and is being held on the UNCG campus on March 27, 2013. Jack Register explains,“The poverty simulation is a way for students to gain perspective about how they not only understand the concept of poverty, but also- and in a very small way- have an emotional response to trying to meet the needs of their hypothetical family.  That is why we chose the name “Making cents of Being Poor.”

This event  includes UNCG students, members of the community and participants invited from five other universities in North Carolina, including North Carolina A&T, and NC State. This will be a huge, all day event, participates and volunteers are still highly needed and lunch will be provided to those that participate. This is an extraordinary event to experience, it is open to the public to observe as well and all are more than welcome.

Photo Credit: Jack Register,  UNCG professor and Rhonda Lang Bruner, a school SW in Forsyth County.  Rhonda was a community volunteer who came to help out.

Written by Lydia Long


Lydia Long is the Politics Staff Writer for Social Work Helper. Her career goals includes working in social justice, policy, and community outreach/organizing. Lydia has work experience in progressive community engagement serving vulnerable populations in mental health and addiction. Lydia is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at the University of NC-Greensboro and NCA&T University Joint Program.

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