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Poverty Simulation 6 (March 2018)

Law students “Walk a Month” to better understand poverty

Law students and attorneys gathered to experience the “Walk A Month in My Shoes” Poverty Simulation at American University Washington College of Law on March 9, 2018. The event was organized by the Washington Council of Lawyers in partnership with five of the D.C. area law schools.

At the event, participants experienced hypothetical realities that low-income clients can face when dealing with challenging people and systems that impact their daily lives. Judge Vytas Vergeer from the Office of Administrative Hearings facilitated the poverty simulation and discussed with attendees their thoughts regarding the experience.

Participants described the event as thought-provoking, uniquely engaging, and ultimately heartbreaking. A participant who was assigned the life of an elementary school child living with ill grandparents described how difficult it was to hear her teacher publicly announce that she did not have $5 to pay for a school field trip. Others noted how the pressures of life negatively impacted their relationship with their family unit.

All participants left the experience feeling better equipped to understand the devastating impact that unexpected transportation costs, unemployment, an illegal eviction, a robbery, or encountering health problems could have on a family unit. By better understanding the challenges and overwhelming impact of poverty, lawyers and law students will be better equipped to support the pro bono and public-interest clients they serve.