Poverty: reality vs perception

Grade 10 student Grace Iori asks “rental agent” Alice Gazeley how she can possibly afford a Kingston apartment.


High school students and retired teachers in Kingston struggled with the stress and anxiety of being poor during a one day role playing game at Queen’s University in April. Hosted by the Roundtable on Poverty Reduction, students played a specific role based on the lives of people living in poverty in Kingston.

Grace Iori, a grade 10 student at Holy Cross Secondary School, assumed the profile of a young woman trying to make ends meet with an income of just $560 per month. Grace first visited the Housing Agency looking for a rental property but was told it could be years before she’d get affordable housing due to a waiting list of one thousand.

“I feel insignificant and this is so emotional. This is only a pretend experience and I’m frustrated. I can’t imagine having to go through this in the real world,” commented Grace.

Roundtable member Jamie Swift , co-director of the Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) office of the Sisters of Providence, says the exercise will change mindset about the poor.

“These students navigate through a confusing maze of various agencies. The walls in a maze are high, they can turn left, right or straight ahead and at the end of the day, they’ll hit a blank wall,” says Jamie.

At the start of the conference, students were asked to describe the poor. The words “loser, lazy, pathetic and addict” came up. By the end of the day, these judgmental ideas had been replaced by “resourceful, misunderstood, strong and caring”.

The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul were well represented at the event including Jamie Swift, Tara Kainer, also a Roundtable member and employee in the JPIC office, Bridget Doherty also with JPIC, and Electa Resource Librarian, Sarah Welsh.

The ultimate goal of the event is to encourage students to become agents of social change in the struggle against poverty.

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