AMES—Even in a thriving community like Ames, poverty and homelessness place children and youth at risk for missing their full potential. For example, each year between 150 and 200 school children in Ames fit the McKinney-Vento Act’s definition of homelessness: “children who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,” according to district Homeless Liaison Sipele Quezada.

Due to economic hardship, these children may find themselves among more than 800 adults and children in Story County who spent 11,000 nights in emergency short-term shelters last year, Quezada said.

“Or, they may double up with friends or families, or live in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds,” she said.  “If they find a place to live, it may lack heat or water.”

Such children are also among the 13,360 people in Story County who lack access to enough food—a number 2.5 percent higher than the statewide average, according to a 2014 report issued by Story County Extension.

On Thursday, April 9, policy-makers, community leaders, service providers, friends and neighbors seeking to understand the toll poverty and homelessness take on peoples’ lives will have a chance to experience a Poverty Simulation, hosted by Leadership Ames Class of XXVIII, the Ames Community School District, the Volunteer Center of Story County and Next Step Adventure.

The event will simulate a month of living in poverty, dealing with day-to-day issues such as homelessness, food insecurity, unemployment and underemployment and barriers to transportation, Story County Volunteer Center Executive Director Anne Owens said.

“We’re hoping experience will help participants understand the issues that face families in poverty and what types of resources are and are not available to assist them,” Owens said. “Participants will have a chance to discuss the potential in Ames for change that supports adequate job opportunities, housing, food accessibility and access to resources to assist families to return to independence. We all need to brainstorm ideas for continuing to make Ames an accessible, healthy, welcoming and vibrant community for everyone living here—particularly our school children and youth.”

The Community Action Poverty Simulation runs from 1 to 4 p.m., Thursday, April. 9, at Cornerstone Church, 56829 U.S. 30.
Please bring a goodwill donation of  $20 with a donation of nonperishable food or school items if you are able, to assist with costs. Material donations will be distributed to the community shelters and schools.

Partners in planning and participating in the Poverty Simulation include Youth and Shelter Services, the Emergency Residence Program, and Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support (ACCESS).

The Poverty Simulation is made possible through in-kind and financial support generously provided by Alpha Copies, Cornerstone Church, City of Ames, First National Bank, and The Weitz Company.  In addition, 40 service providers and businesses will participate to provide realistic scenarios and a panel discussion.