Ending the Poverty Gap with CAPS

By: Kristy Hartmann, CA DCSS

What does it feel like to live in poverty on a daily basis, and not be able to afford basic necessities? According to the US Census, about 10,000 residents (10.3%) of Nevada County are living at or below the federal poverty level, about 20,000 have Medi-Cal as their source for insurance, and about 7,300 have CalFresh to help them purchase healthy food. To help the community understand the reality behind these numbers, Sierra Nevada Regional Department of Child Support Services (Sierra Nevada Regional DCSS) used the Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS), an interactive training that allows participants to truly experience and understand the hardships of poverty. CAPS was established by the Missouri Community Action Network and its goal is to inspire local change and end poverty in communities.

On December 11, 2019, Director of Sierra Nevada Regional DCSS Mike Dent presented the simulation and led members of Nevada County’s Government Leadership Group through an immersive experience as they enacted real life scenarios of poverty. Participants took on the identity of people who struggle with financial instability, need public assistance, have physical disabilities, come from low income working families, or receive Social Security. As they navigated the exercises, some participants lived with their “family” in poverty for a month, creating a budget and finding ways to afford basic necessities and shelter, while others pretended to be human service agents, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers, and many more.

During the debriefing session after the training, the participants expressed a greater understanding for people living in poverty in the Nevada County. “This training opportunity is greatly beneficial in aiding our staff and government leaders to better understand the complexities and frustrations of those living in poverty. The more awareness we can bring to this issue, the greater our ability to address the challenges faced by those in poverty in our community,” Mike Dent said.

For more information about CAPS, please contact Mike Dent at mike.dent@co.nevada.ca.us or (530) 265-1410.