Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) 

The Community Action Poverty Simulation is a profoundly moving experience.  It moves people to think about the harsh realities of poverty and to talk about how communities can address the problem.  Most importantly, it moves people to make a difference.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation breaks down stereotypes by allowing participants to step into the real-life situations of others. 

The simulation involves participants who take on the roles of members of up to 26 families, all facing a variety of challenging, but typical, circumstances.  To start the simulation exercise, each family is given a card explaining its unique circumstances.  It is then the families’ task to provide food, shelter, and other necessities by accessing various community resources during four 15-minute “weeks.” In addition, about 20 volunteers - preferably people who have experienced poverty - play the roles of resource providers in the community.  This allows individuals who have firsthand knowledge of poverty bring their perceptions to the exercise.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation is conducted in a large room.  Participants are seated in family groups and community resources are located at tables around the perimeter of the room.  The facilitator opens the simulation with an orientation to the activity, goes over ground rules, and answers participant questions during the exercise. The activity lasts about three hours.  This time frame includes an introduction and briefing by the facilitator, the simulation exercise, and a guided debriefing in which participants and volunteers share their observations and insights from the activity.

Poverty is often portrayed as a stand-alone issue - but this simulation allows individuals to walk a month in the shoes of someone who is facing poverty and realize how complex and interconnected issues of poverty really are.

Some examples of groups who have used the Community Action Poverty Simulation experience include:


• Customer Service Groups

• Health Care Professionals

• Educators

• Clergy and Congregations

• Social Service Providers

• Elected Officials

• Management Staff

• College Students

• Community Organizations

• Corporations