This week, residents of Union County will have the opportunity to learn what poverty looks like and how to support those who are living in it.
The Council for Union County Families and United Way of Union County are presenting "Bridges Out of Poverty" and the "Cost of Poverty Experience" (COPE) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Union County Health Department, 940 London Ave.
Brenda Rock, the council's coordinator and health educator for the Union County Health Department, said Think Tank Inc., a Springfield-based training and coaching organization, will present the session.
"The training is for anyone who seeks to better understand the 'hidden rules' that govern many aspects of life for the poor," Rock said. "It is applicable for people who work in a church, a social service agency, a nonprofit or school."
According to Think Tank's website, the program aims to help attendees make a difference in their communities:
"People from all economic classes come together to improve job retention rates, build resources, improve outcomes, and support those who are moving out of poverty," the website says.
COPE on the other hand, is a full-immersion poverty simulation custom-designed by Think Tank.
"The simulation will be a role play. Volunteers will be playing roles and attendees will be interacting with them," Rock said.
COPE "has been used to help many organizations and communities across the nation work more effectively with low-income families and understand and address the issues of poverty more comprehensively," the company's website states.
Attendees must pre-register for the event. The cost is $20, which includes a workbook and lunch. Social workers and counselors can receive continuing education unit credits for attending.
The poverty program has been held locally before, Rock said, but this time it goes a step further.
"The last Bridges Out of Poverty event was in 2008, but was only an information session. This session includes an experience," she said.
Rock said according to U.S. Census data, 7.3 percent of Union County residents live below the poverty line. That's less than half the statewide rate of 15.4 percent.
The county health department cites statistics from the American Community Survey, which shows 15.9 percent of the U.S. population lives below the poverty line. A family of three, for example, is considered to be in poverty if it earns less than $19,090 annually, or $1,590 per month.
The Jan. 29 event will center around how poverty affects the local community and how to develop strategies with low-income individuals that address their most pressing needs.
Individuals interested in attending should call Shari Marsh at 937-303-0256 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.