San Antonio Express-News, October 1, 2007: Business owners learn what it’s like to live in poverty

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Deborah Knapp

In San Antonio, 45,000 families live in poverty. While there are social services available, on Monday, business leaders learned how hard it is for low income families to take advantage of them.

“I’m learning it’s very hard to get around with no transportation, and no money to pay for transportation,” said Donna Normandain, a senior vice president at Frost Bank.

In a program called Poverty Simulation, sponsored by the National League of Cities, dozens of local business leaders spent the day taking on the identity of a person in poverty. Businessmen became single mothers, and grown men became teenagers.

“Well, my mom’s going to be kicked out of the house any moment, and I went to get a job, because I don’t have any money,” said Jerry Degrieck, whose character was a 17-year-old named Ed.

Degrieck is learning first hand the frustrations and fears so many low-income Americans face and the goal is to leave with solutions.

“One of the things that we’re doing at Rackspace is we’re going to try and partner with some of the school programs around, to introduce technical skills at a younger age to give people a chance, as they grow up, to start earning money as soon as they can, and establish themselves with a career and a future,” said Rick Weld, a project management director at Rackspace.

It’s a future many of the business leaders that attended can make a reality with a greater appreciation of the barriers so many San Antonians face.

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