April 13 and 14 marked the MC and PGCC Hillman students’ second annual visit to the Steinbruck Center at Luther Place at Logan’s Circle in Washington, DC, where program director Sarah Johnson led an intensive experience to raise our consciousness about the real causes of poverty, which are rooted in systemic inequality, a lack of affordable housing and living wage jobs as well as the high costs of health care and child care, which disproportionately affect those who have historically experienced oppression.
After learning about the myths and realities of poverty in the United States, we were given the identities of people who are living in poverty so that we could experience the challenges that people face every day when they do not have adequate living resources in a “poverty simulation.” While this small taste of life on the edge hardly reflected the harsh realities faced by people who have to decide regularly between groceries and paying the bills, it did bring home some of the challenges we’d learned about and set us up for the stories shared by several members of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who supported us as we walked through the local parks and interacted with many people who do not have a place of their own. Our program ended with a group discussion on the process of community activism and shared reflections on the experience and on what the experience means for us going forward.
Of course, while we all went through this experience together, we also had a great time getting to know one another better. The communal activities of preparing and enjoying food together, finding our way around the neighborhood, and even traveling together brought us all closer. Throughout the weekend, the students from both schools commented on how much better they knew each other after this experience.