Food insecurity, housing instability, homelessness, lack of reliable and affordable transportation, domestic violence, unemployment and underemployment is a reality for many of our neighbors right here in our community. According to Minnesota Compass (2013), 10.6% of Red Wing residents live in poverty. These challenges are a daily struggle for many. Striving to ensure the basic needs of all in our community are met is one of United Way’s bold goals. But how do you fight poverty, an issue that is so complex? At United Way we believe that it begins with an increased understanding of poverty and empathy for our neighbors who are living it.  See our brochure here.

To this end our United Way is now offering Poverty Simulations, an impactful and interactive experience in which participants begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. It is a simulation, not a game. The Poverty Simulation brings awareness to the realities our neighbors in poverty face everyday and ideally serves as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue and ultimately real local social change.

The attendees of our first simulation in September of 2015 were local community leaders. These participants have described their experience as “worthwhile,” “eye-opening,” and “powerful” and 100% of participants reported an increased sense of compassion, empathy and understanding for people living in poverty as a result of the simulation. One participant said, “People in poverty have an extremely hard life to live and need the support of their community to improve their situations.” Participants have shared that they brought insights gained during the simulation back to their place of employment which in turn informed decision-making on new or revised policies and programming which directly affect people living in poverty. Others remarked that they personally have been more generous of their volunteer time and financial gifts to organizations fighting poverty. These early outcomes of our first simulation are promising and inspiring fuel to continue this work.

The Poverty Simulation lasts between 2.5 and 3 hours and can accommodate between 30 and 80 participants. The simulation can be held for any audience whether participants are all from one organizations (ie school personnel, hospital/clinic staff, county staff, a nonprofit social service agency, church congregation, etc) or it is a mixed group of individuals such as community leaders, the general public, etc.

We feel very strongly about the value of the Poverty Simulation experience and are grateful to be able to offer this opportunity in our community. If you are interested in being a part of the Poverty Simulation, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the United Way at 651-388-6309 or See our brochure here.  Thank you for reading. 


Laura Sand Prink

Community Impact Manager

United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha & Pierce Counties