Understanding what it's like to live under the poverty line

The Alabama State Bar hosted an event to give people an idea of what it is like to live in poverty on Friday, October 21st at Troy University's Dothan campus.

The tables looked like a game of monopoly, as about 60 people took part in a role playing seminar. But, this game was about helping people in real life. Social workers, attorneys, and Troy University students acted as families trying to make ends meet.

"This is further proof families of five that are making good or decent money then fall behind and can't catch back up,” said David Averyt, accounting manager for Acuity.co in Birmingham, AL.

Averyt played the role of a 10 year old boy. In his family scenario, the father is unemployed, mom lost her full-time job and went part-time, his 16-year-old sister is pregnant and his 8 year-old-brother ran away from home. Each family had to learn how to properly manage their bills as best they could.

"It was just kind of eye opening to realize there's people that one; depend on a lot of the services that our community offers. But two, don't even know what services are out there to go seek them out,” said bar president for the Houston County Bar Association, T.J. Haywood.

The simulation was set up with stations that each represented a different bill or expense that needed to be paid. Haywood worked the super market station, and said only one family came to get groceries.

"Kids eat at school, that's where they get their meal for the day, breakfast and lunch. So when kids have spring break, they don’t eat. There was no food to eat because they didn't come to the grocery store."

Other stations included health care, the bank, and even jail.
The simulation was designed to help lawyers understand the realities of poverty and to take action.

"It's a chance for us to really put ourselves in our neighbors shoes and to disrupt some of our misperceptions about what it means to be a low income person in Alabama,” said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible.

More than 900,000 Alabamians live below the poverty line. To apply for a pro bono lawyer, you must be at a 125% poverty level or lower and have assets under $5,000.