MILLEDGEVILLE — Of the children in Baldwin County, 35 percent under the age of 18 are raised in a household at or below the poverty level. Various Georgia College organizations hope to bring awareness to the university and extended community about the local poverty rate and homelessness and ways to give back to the needy as part of ONE Week.
The Nonprofit Leadership Student Alliance (NLSA) kicked off a week of activities by hosting a poverty simulation Monday to allow fellow students to get a glimpse of what life is like for the impoverished individual and the hardships they have to overcome on a daily basis.
“The overall purpose is to raise awareness about poverty in Milledgeville, Georgia and throughout the United States, and advocating for poverty and talking about the issue,” said Melanie Hutcheson, community outreach coordinator for NLSA. “Georgia College did a simulation years ago, but we wanted to bring it up again as an annual event on campus.”
Individuals coming to the simulation were given fictional identities and a life story, headed to various tables to assist in their situation, and received water and a peanut butter sandwich from the soup kitchen booth. The make-believe scenarios included a successful CEO whose company went bankrupt, which led to the depletion of financial resources and loss of home, or a homeless drug addict who ran away as a teen and struggled to separate from a gang, drug addiction and a jail record.
“When visiting the Department of Family and Children Services table, we talk about Medicaid, food stamps and we highlight the obstacles of what people need to do to get help. We did a lot of research and we want to educate people that the government doesn’t just hand things out; people have to apply for these benefits,” Hutcheson explained Monday. “At the unemployment table, we talk about the obstacles people face when applying for an unemployment check. The housing table talks about the local Habitat for Humanity and explains that a house isn’t just built for a family; you have to put down a down payment and show that you’re working. We also have a mock thrift store, soup kitchen and an Act Now table to find out statistics, how to volunteer or donate to support the local community and fight poverty.”