Litigants With Diverse Needs

March 2019 - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

On March 6, 2019, the Office for Justice Initiatives facilitated a Poverty Simulation at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Participants included law students from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, New York Law School as well as the Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest at Rutgers Law School, the Senior Director of Public Service and Pro Bono Initiatives at New York Law School, and a faculty member from New York Law School and non-judicial NYS Court personnel. In addition, administrators and faculty from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, staffed community organizations that the participants interacted with.

The Poverty Simulation is designed to provide participants with the experience of living in poverty for one month. The month is broken down into four fifteen-minute long weeks. Each week participants were tasked with making decisions to support and care for themselves and their families. Upon arrival, participants were assigned roles within family units. Families were provided with a packet that included instructions for the simulation, a description of each family member, the family’s financial situation, and a breakdown of responsibilities and bills that needed to be paid over the course of the “month” long simulation. Participants were exposed to the difficult choices that people living in poverty make every day. At the conclusion, of the simulation, participants and volunteers gathered to debrief. Below is a sampling of comments from those who participated in the Poverty Simulation.


Comments from Participants 

  • “The simulation got real very quickly. When a barrage of obstacles hit like an avalanche, you really start to feel the urgency that so many New Yorkers face on a daily basis. Newfound appreciation for what we have.”
  • “Excellent exercise for increasing sensitivity to the challenges, frustration, humiliation, and loneliness of poverty. One friendly greeting from a social services worker made a huge difference in morale.”
  • “This program was very insightful. I think that I’ve realized that one of the biggest issues is that people aren’t aware of a lot of helpful resources. Also, as a ‘teenager’ I wasn’t concerned about going to school because I was most concerned about the well-being of my family.”
  • “The poverty simulation mirrored the real life struggles that many of us face. The simulation really brings awareness to what like is like when you don’t make enough money for life’s basic necessities, and in participating in the activity; it made me very anxious and nervous when I couldn’t afford to make payments for housing/utilities, etc. Overall, very helpful and REAL simulated experience of poverty.”
  • “Learned so much! It was eerie how real a lot of the situations seemed.”
  • “Great experience. You never realize what an individual goes through on a weekly/monthly basis.”
  • “Fabulous program. Thank you!”