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OACAC Event Put People in Shoes of Those Living in Poverty

Representatives of various organizations in southwest Missouri got a glimpse today of what it’s like to live in poverty.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more on a poverty simulation held at the Fusion Center in Springfield.

Participants in today’s poverty simulation, part of Give Ozarks Day, were given a scenario, which included things like employment and marital status, number of kids, how many bills they had and their income.  They worked together in family groups and had access to various services such as an employer, schools, social services and payday loans.

"They basically do four, 15-minute weeks so that they can try to see how people in poverty live and to try to survive the month," she said.

Meghan Visser is program development specialist for neighborhood centers at Ozarks Community Action Corporation or OACAC, which sponsored the simulation.  She hoped the event would raise awareness of her organization and the needs in the community.

"We hope that there's more awareness raised of the struggles that low income people face in our community and people are aware of how many low income people are in our community.  It is a problem for Springfield and the surrounding area," she said.

OACAC, she said, offers seven programs, including Head Start, housing assistance, help with utilities, Foster Grandparents and more.

Shyra Bilyeu, a community healthcare worker with Cox Branson, was given the role of 34-year-old single mom of two teenagers, Doris Duntley, whose husband left her with only $10 to her name. She came to see what life is like for some of those she serves.

"We do a lot with the low income, low functioning families  in Stone and Taney County and the surrounding area and so we just kind of want to see what they have to go through on a daily basis," she said.

Alana Owen played the role of Bilyeu’s 17-year-old son who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant.  She, too, wanted to find out what life is like for some of the community members she works with.

"A lot of the neighborhoods that we work with have people and situations just like what we're experiencing today, and so it's a way to walk a few steps in their shoes and see what they deal with on a daily basis and hopefully try to understand it a little better," she said.

The simulation ended with a discussion about how the community can collectively address the issue of poverty.

Give Ozarks Day goes through 11:59 tonight.  Learn more here.