Poverty Simulation


Credit: West Valley Community Services

Aashna Shah

On Saturday, Nov. 2nd, the City of Cupertino hosted a Poverty Simulation in collaboration with West Valley Community Services and Step Up Silicon Valley. This event, lasting from 10 a.m. to noon, consisted of participants working to overcome barriers to social services, living off of insufficient income, and encountering unforeseen economic obstacles.

Said Angela Silviera, the Program Coordinator for Step Up Silicon Valley, “The Community Action Poverty Simulation is a two-hour experience where you engage with your community and learn how it is to live in a low-income situation or family.”

“You have a first hour that is broken into four 15-minute weeks, and you form families with unique identities and learn how to struggle to make ends meet month-to-month or week-to-week and see how your living situation is when you have to cut out and prioritize what you need to pay for. You interact with various resource places that you would have to interact with everyday, like your employers, social security, and you feel the stress of trying to get everywhere at once to make the regular week work,” Silviera said.

The simulation was run by volunteers who were homeless in the Bay Area at one time.

Said Sylvia Martin, a volunteer with Step Up Silicon Valley, “I come from a very abusive family. I ran away from home when I was sixteen and had a daughter. We recently became reacquainted because […] I lost my daughter when she was about five years old. She was taken from me because I could not care for her.”

“In 2005, I was working as a dispatcher at HP, I was a contractor, and they unfortunately laid us off. When they laid us off, I couldn’t find work immediately, so I had to pay my rent through my savings. [My savings] slowly diminished, and I was looking everywhere for a job and couldn’t find [one]. I realized that I didn’t have any money in the bank and I [couldn’t] pay my rent. Unfortunately, I had exhausted asking my family and friends for money to help me and I found myself having to make a choice of [living in] a homeless shelter,” said another volunteer.

The Poverty Simulation has four goals: to promote poverty awareness, increase understanding, inspire local change, and transform perspectives. With over 18 percent of Santa Clara County’s residents living in poverty, it’s imperative that we begin to understand their narratives and make active choices in our lifestyles to fight against poverty.