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Mississippi Social Workers Simulate Poverty

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Aug 2011 08:14pm | comments
Thomas Morris and one of his "family" members.

More than 20-percent of Mississippians live in poverty, which is much higher than the national average. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on a simulated month of poverty for a group of social service workers. More than 50 social service workers gather at a Hotel in Jackson Monday to live a simulated month of life in poverty. They take on the persona and economic profile modeled on an actual poor Mississippian, group into families, learning their income and responsibilities and trying to manage a month. Every 15 minutes represents one week, and along the way they encounter problems like unemployment. Selling prized possession to pushy pawn shop owners. And navigating the complex bureaucracy for public assistance. all while dodging criminals offering illegal help, keeping food on the table, the kids in school and paying all the bills to avoid eviction. Entergy Mississippi ran the simulation and Entergy's manager for low income Linda Barns says the goal is to help the service providers better understand their clients. "What we are hoping is, that we raise awareness, but more than anything that we bring our community together and look at some realistic ways to join resources to fight poverty," Barns said. Pearl River Valley Opportunity IT manager Thomas Morris, who wound up trying to sell fake drugs after losing his job, says it opened his eyes to the relentless pressure facing the working poor. "You never get a chance to actually stop and really collect yourself. You are constantly in motion. You wake up you go to work and then you are back home and go to sleep and then you wake up and go to work. It is just a constant motion and you never get a chance to get back on your feet," Morris said. Roughly one in five Mississippians lives in poverty, but for some single mothers it could be as high as 44-percent. The stimulation is part of a two day Low income summit, which continues today in Jackson.



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