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When a foundation hosts a fundraising event, attendees frequently enjoy an elegant evening with food, music and desirable silent auction items. That’s why guests attending a recent Social Development Foundation event were stunned to find hors d’oeuvres and little else.

And that’s the point.

By taking away luxuries that attendees typically enjoy, the Social Development Foundation used an unconventional method to communicate what poverty feels like in Milwaukee County.

The foundation brought in University of Wisconsin facilitators who, with role-playing, created an experience that simulates life for someone experiencing poverty.  Event attendees played children, senior citizens and single parents who financially struggled to make ends meet. As the night went on, some participants got evicted, jailed or sick, making poverty even more difficult to escape.

“I left the session with a different perspective,” Joseph Frodl told a local reporter during an interview. “We never had to face the hurdles the poor face.”

According to one of the most recent studies examining poverty in Milwaukee County, as many as 18% of Milwaukee County residents live in poverty. A simulation like this helps bring these statistics to life.

The Social Development Foundation hosts several events to raise funds and increase awareness of anti-poverty initiatives in Milwaukee County.  In October, the foundation will host its signature event, the Don Sykes Legacy Dinner. The event, named after one of Milwaukee’s most prominent anti-poverty activists, recognizes individuals who help empower Milwaukee County residents so they may move beyond poverty.