Spent, from The Urban Ministries of Durham, is an online role-playing scenario, which challenges us to rethink our perceptions of homelessness and poverty.

In the scenario, we are a single parent with no job and only $1,000 to get us through the month. Throughout the scenario, we have to find a job, a place to live, and buy groceries; make tough decisions about issues like whether or not to have health insurance or buy shoes for our kids; and deal with unexpected emergencies. The goal is to see whether or not we can make it through the month without spending all our money.

If you haven’t been in a situation of severe economic struggle, it can be easy to make assumptions and judgments about people in poverty and challenging to understand all the complex factors and unexpected obstacles that determine whether or not you have enough to pay rent, feed your kids, and deal with emergencies.

Spent is a useful tool for unpacking assumptions and sparking discussion about the complexity of a variety of important issues, such as poverty, homelessness, economic inequality, unemployment, job fairness, and ethical choices.