December 22, 2019 – On December 11th, County leadership staff across all sectors of County government experienced the virtual realities of poverty in a unique poverty simulation presented by Mike Dent, Director of Child Support, Collections and Housing and Community Services.

Meeting Basic Needs in Nevada County

Locally, approximately 10,000 Nevada County residents (about 10.3%) are living at or below the federal poverty level, according to US Census data. Many more residents live just above the poverty level.

Thousands of residents of Nevada County struggle to meet their basic needs. Currently, about 20,000 residents have Medi-Cal as their primary insurance source and about 7,300 are currently utilizing CalFresh assistance to meet their basic food needs.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS)

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) was developed to help people better understand the realities of poverty, to sensitize those who frequently deal with low income families, and to create a broader awareness of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and others.

“CAPS enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles, and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities,” said Elain West, former executive director of the Missouri Community Action Network, which made the simulation available nationwide.

Using a simulation kit, participants role-played the lives of low-income families. Some were recipients of public assistance, some were disabled, and others were from low income working families as well as senior citizens on Social Security. Participants had the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15 minute “weeks.” They interacted with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

“This training opportunity is greatly beneficial in aiding our staff and government leaders to better understand the complexities and frustrations of those living in poverty,” said Mike Dent, Director of Child Support, Collections and Housing and Community Services“The more awareness we can bring to this issue, the greater our ability to address the challenges faced by those in poverty in our community.”

Through the simulation training, participants better understood the everyday reality of thousands of residents who are experiencing poverty in Nevada County. Participants had a chance to share their experiences in the debrief session after the simulation and felt the simulations was impactful and thought provoking. Many left with the desire to do more to make a difference in the lives of those in our community who experience poverty.

More Information about CAPS

If you would like information about providing this simulation to community organizations please contact Mike Dent at or call him at (530) 265-1410 for more information.