Waco: People witness poverty first hand during simulation

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) For 30 years, people have traded in their beds for sleeping bags and cellphones for notebooks for a glimpse of what it must feel like to live in poverty in Central Texas.

It's called the poverty simulation put on Mission Waco, Mission World.

More than 60 volunteers participated in the three-day weekend program.

"I'm the type of person that likes to know what's going to happen and I like a schedule, I like to know how to pack, all the instructions were very vague," eighth grade Louisiana teacher Amber Harris.

Harris said she witnessed poverty first hand after talking to a woman about poverty who was living on the streets.

"It's kind of tough for me to wrap my head around that there's so many churches and what churches are called to do is care for the poor and there's so much (poverty) that's not just Waco that's everywhere," she said.

Mission Waco hosts the program several times a year.

"Many of them say 'gosh, I didn't realize how selfish I was' or 'I love my warm showers,'" program director Janet Dorrell said.

Dorrell said she hopes participants are inspired to help those less fortunate.

"Poverty simulation basically educates people about really what goes on in the world and we talk about how people choose what they want to know and what they don't want to know," she said.

Dorrell has run the program for about 30 years and has seen people leave the three-day simulation changed in a more accepting persona.

"They don't walk over people and they decide that just because somebody is on the street, they're not invisible anymore. So they choose to see people and that's what we want to do at Mission Waco, mission world," Dorrell said.

When people return home Dorrell said she hopes they are more willing to serve their hometowns.

More than 30,000 people have participated in the poverty simulation since the program's start.

According to the program's statistics, 30 percent of Waco residents live in poverty that's more than twice the rate for city's of this size.

The next poverty simulation happens in June.