A local group hopes a poverty simulation on Tuesday will inform Quad-City residents about the challenges people face when fighting daily to meet basic human needs.
From 8 a.m. to noon, Opportunities Quad-Cities will host a poverty summit at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 2136 Brady St., Davenport. A collaboration of local leaders and organizations, Opportunities Quad-Cities works to help individuals and families escape poverty.
Loredia Dixon, Open Door program director, said while the group has held summits in the past, this will be the first year it has organized a poverty simulation, to demonstrate what it’s like to live in a cycle of poverty.
“There’s poverty here in the Quad-Cities and we all see that,” Dixon said. “We want to bring awareness of what really exists. Sometimes we get comfortable and don’t see the situations people are experiencing. The poverty simulation will help us realize those scenarios and situations do exist, as well as how difficult it is to even get through the barriers they’re facing.”
Each participant, Dixon said, will be assigned a barrier, such as unemployment, homelessness, disability, hunger or crime. They will work to navigate the scenarios by interacting with people playing the parts of police officers, case workers, teachers, loan collectors and service providers.
“For those of us on the front line of seeing this on a daily basis, those are some of actual barriers people are dealing with,” she said. “That’s why we chose them. And they could be dealing with more than one. They could be homeless and without a job, because we all know you have to have income to pay rent.”
After the simulation, the group will talk about ways to locally combat poverty, she said. Opportunities Quad-Cities will also teach participants about its program that pairs people in poverty with mentors and support services.
Dixon said the group follows a program modeled by Donna Beegle, an activist and speaker who spent around 28 years of her life homeless before eventually earning a doctoral degree. Under the program, volunteers, called “navigators,” guide people in poverty, or “neighbors,” through accessing social services, education, job training systems and more.
Opportunities Quad-Cities serves around 400 people experiencing poverty, and on a weekly basis, around 80 people work as navigators, she said.
“A navigator can change lives," Dixon said. "It’s just having the openness, being willing to help, and you have to have that love for it."
While there are no specific restrictions for who can sign up as a volunteer, Dixon said the group holds monthly training sessions for navigators.
For more information, visit Opportunities Quad-Cities' website.