Experience Poverty in Silicon Valley
Community Action Poverty Simulations

Experience Poverty in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley, the place of innovation, entrepreneurship, and wealth is home to families who can’t make ends meet. These are working families who are trying to feed, dress, house, and educate their children. Yet, no matter how hard they work, they can’t get ahead with housing cost being high, among many other challenges. At Step Up, we are trying to increase awareness and engagement through poverty simulations.
The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is a unique tool that can educate everyone, from policy makers to local community leaders, about the day-to-day realities of those living in poverty in Santa Clara County. During the simulation, participants form families that work together to overcome barriers to social services, live off insufficient income (e.g. $2000/month for a family of four), and encounter unforeseen economic obstacles along the way.


Over the past few years, we have realized that many members of our community are using CAPS as an opportunity to educate their students, employees, board, and staff members about the day to day life of low income families. For some community members it is also a team building activity. The demand for our poverty simulation services has increased and to meet those needs, we have added new team members. We are also in the process of streamlining the facilitation and follow-up processes in order to address the needs of our partners.
Who Can Participate:
  • Corporations: To engage employees in local issues, increase volunteerism, and participate in a team-building exercise
  • Non-profits: To deepen board members' understanding of the challenges of local social issues and to provide strategic support that can assist the organizations to serve low income families.
  • Educational Institutions: To educate students on the realities of poverty in Silicon Valley and to help them get access to organizations where they can provide volunteer services and advocacy work.
  • Faith based organizations: To increase members' involvement in advocacy and volunteerism.

This Year, We Look Forward to Hosting Poverty Simulations with:

  • Sunnyvale Community Services and Leadership Sunnyvale
  • Bellarmine College Preparatory
  • Santa Clara University, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
We Thank our Past Hosts:
  • Cisco Systems
  • Bank of America
  • Synaptics, Inc.
  • SV2
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • US Congress
  • CA State Legislature
  • Cupertino Rotary Club
  • Stanford University
  • City of Palo Alto
  • San Jose State University
  • Los Altos United Methodist Church
  • Kol Emeth Congregation
  • Shir Hadash Congregation
Meet Our Simulation Team:

Elizabeth Lilly has been facilitating and planning our poverty simulations since January 2009 and was one of the founding members of Step Up Silicon Valley. Elizabeth has 25 years of experience in the pastoral ministry in the Diocese of San Jose and four years served as Director of Community and Parish Partnerships at CCSCC. She currently lives in Los Altos with her husband and has three children and six grandchildren.



Chris Miller joins our team as an additional facilitator to our Poverty Simulations. He currently serves as the youth and young adult coordinator at St. Christopher Parish in San Jose, CA. He is a graduate of Santa Clara University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in History, a California Teaching Credential, a Master’s Degree in Education, and in Pastoral Ministries. Chris graduated in December 2013 from Boston College, in a post–master’s degree program in youth and young adult faith, and began studies in mid-2014 in a doctoral program in education at the University of San Francisco.

Ruben Alcaraz is our student intern who will be directly assisting with the details and behind-the-scenes facilitation of the Poverty Simulations. He is currently a Senior at Santa Clara University, studying Communications and is a first–generation college student in his family. Born in San Jose, Ruben was drawn to Step Up because of its mission to increase economic opportunity and alleviate poverty as he comes from an area where poverty is visible. After graduation, Ruben’s goal is to find a job that he truly loves so that he can start the process of paying off college loans and help his family.


Resources on Poverty:

The U.S. ranks last among wealthy countries in poverty. Read more about the state of poverty in the Unites States which The Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality published in their 2016 report here.
For more information on how you can host a Poverty Simulation:

Contact Angela Silveira at asilveira@stepupsv.org or visit our website at stepupsv.org/step-up-events/poverty-simulation/.


Almaz Negash, Managing Director Step Up Silicon Valley
Tel: (408) 325-5128 | anegash@stepupsv.org
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Step Up Silicon Valley of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
2625 Zanker Road
San Jose, California 95134

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