No-strings cash provided to homeless people through pilot program has saved lives, participants say

Mark Gaskin sits in the back of his gray Ford Escape on Nov. 6, 2023 in Commerce City. After an accident Gaskin loss his job and ended up living in his car. The City of Denver is budgeting $2 million for next year's Denver Basic Income Project. Gaskin, still living in his car, is on the last of his 12 months recieving a $1,000 monthly payment from this year's program. Gaskin is not sure what he is going to do without the program's help going forward. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Cash is freedom. That has been Denver Basic Income Project founder Mark Donovan’s refrain as he led a program that provided more than 800 homeless people in the Denver area with no-strings-attached cash payments every month for the last year.

For recipients Dia Broncucia, 53, and Justin Searls, 45, those payments have been a manifestation of a different concept: hope.

The money got them off the street, played a critical role in helping Broncucia recover from Stage 3 breast cancer and was a catalyst as the couple charts a new course for their lives after getting sober following years of drug use.

“We probably wouldn’t have been able to survive. I’m dead serious. Something would have happened,” Searls said of what might have been had they not been enrolled in the program.

The Denver Basic Income Project marked the anniversary of the first payments of its pilot program on Nov. 15. The program is funded through a mix of private, nonprofit and government money, with the city of Denver recently agreeing to renew its initial investment.

Researchers with the Center for Housing and Homelessness Research at the University of Denver have been tracking the impact the money has had on participants via voluntary surveys. They’ve seen some encouraging results thus far, as outlined in a midpoint report released last month.

The 802 people who enrolled in the program were broken into three categories. One group received $1,000 a month for 12 months, another received a $6,500 lump payment and then $500 a month for 11 months and the final group was selected to receive $50 a month for a year.

After six months of payments, recipients across those categories were living in homes or apartments that they owned or rented at a rate four times higher than when they first enrolled, 35% compared to 8%, according to those survey results. The percentage of recipients working full-time also rose from 22% to 27%, though that rate remained flat at 22% among the people in the $50-per-month category.

Beyond the numbers, it’s the human stories like Broncucia’s and Searls’ that assure Donovan he is on the right path with a project he started organizing in 2021 amid the upheaval of the pandemic. The next step is turning Denver into a national model for basic income initiatives focused on homelessness, he and other advocates hope.

Donovan and Denver aren’t alone in exploring the impact of cash transfers. The aspirational concept of a “universal basic income” for all Americans has been discussed on presidential debate stages thanks to Andrew Yang, and other communities around the country have introduced programs tailored for specific demographic groups. The City of Boulder is preparing to launch a 2-year program that will provide 200 low-income families with $500 per month with nothing required in return.

The Denver project has had a fundamental impact on Mark Gaskin. He was considering taking his own life before he was connected with the project. He lost his job after being injured in a workplace accident and then lost the …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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