Welcome to Realville. It’s a fictional town in a role-playing exercise that allows people who work with the poor to experience what it’s like to live in poverty.
Participants in the so-called “poverty simulator” are cast in different roles, from a grandparent raising grandkids on limited means, to a college student supporting a family while dad is in jail. The participants spend several hours in a room where life unfolds in four 15-minute segments that represent a month in the life of the poor.
We speak with Dustin Speakman, who runs a poverty simulator for groups across the country and is community services director at the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. We also hear from Ohio Municipal Court Judge Teresa Ballinger, who put her staff through the exercise.