Offering non-binding monthly payments to the Denver homeless should result in less money being spent on alcohol, drugs, and other vices when programs in other cities show it.

Stockton, California and Chelsea, Massachusetts have tried initiatives like the one proposed by a Denver entrepreneur, and officials on both coasts say the money they have offered low-income residents will include stable housing, access to food, and full-service life Full supply has contributed. Time employment.

“Just because households and families experience poverty because of systemic and racial inequalities in our economy doesn’t mean they are irresponsible,” said Alex Train, director of housing and community development for Chelsea, just across the river from Boston.

The Denver Basic Income Project, if fully funded, as envisaged by clothing company owner Mark Donovan, would give money to three groups of people who are only affected by homelessness, with no rules on how to spend it. You would get a one-time payment of $ 6,500 and then monthly payments of $ 500 for 11 months. The second group would receive $ 1,000 every month for a year. And the third group would only get $ 50 a month to participate in the study.

No city money is used, although Mayor Michael Hancock said he was in favor of the experiment.

While an estimated 820 people affected by homelessness would be part of the study – a fraction of the estimated 4,171 homeless in Denver – this is a chance to see if Universal Basic Income is both a humanitarian and a financially responsible approach to helping people to help job searches and reduce reliance on costly social networking services, according to Professor Daniel Brisson of the University of Denver.

Brisson directs the DU Housing and Homelessness Center and will study Donovan’s program with the aim of tracking beneficiaries’ use of money, employment and safety, and their sense of control associated with stress and anxiety.

“The idea behind a universal basic income is not to give people money for nothing,” said Brisson. “But the work they do doesn’t give them enough to afford a home in the ridiculously expensive Denver market, doesn’t give them enough money to feed their children, do a simple car repair, or worry about a hospital bill To take care of. ”

Nick Otto, AFP via Getty Images

Lorrine Paradela, right, walks with Sukhi Samra, Executive Director of the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration in Stockton, California on February 7, 2020. Paradela, a 45-year-old single mother, is one of 125 Stockton residents who receive monthly cash payments. The ridiculed idea of ​​paying everyone a basic income is getting a fresh look.

Stockton, Chelsea and Vancouver

Perhaps the biggest clue that the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) was a success was people in the central California city of more than 300,000 residents who weren’t part of the program, former Mayor Michael Tubbs said.

SEED, the first of its kind in the United States, gave $ 500 a month to 125 people in low-income areas for two years, Tubbs said.

Stockton residents who received money saw income fluctuations flatten out from month to month and had fewer anxiety and depression compared to a control group.

“It gave them the ability to deal with an unexpected emergency, take time off to find a better job, or pay for tires when their tires burst,” said Tubbs.

But the effects were more than anecdotal. Independent researchers and professors at the University of Tennessee and the University of Pennsylvania found that households that received money saw a 12% increase in full-time employment, more than twice that of the control group. And less than 1% of the money captured through debit card purchases went into tobacco or alcohol.

The homeless population in Vancouver, British Columbia is smaller than that of Denver. It is estimated to be over 3,600. An attempt has been made to vary the basic income, with 50 people affected by homelessness receiving a one-time payment of $ 7,500 each that can be spent on anything.

A study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that people who received money moved into stable housing more quickly, retained more than $ 1,000 in savings for a year, and were less reliant on emergency shelter compared to the unpaid control group. They also spent more money on groceries, clothing, and rent, and reduced spending on drugs, tobacco, and alcohol by an average of 39%, the study showed.

DENVER, CO - MARCH 20: Alice Fria, 57, and tentmate Ron Doss, 43, settle in Denver, Colorado on March 20, 2019.  If you put it all in, you will be safe, warmer at night, and your area cleaner, while you survive on the streets of Denver.  (Photo by Joe Amon / The Denver Post)

Joe Amon, the Denver Post

Alice Fria, 57, and her tentmate Ron Doss, 43, settle in Denver on March 20, 2019. If they take it all in, they’ll be safe, warm at night, and keep their area clean while surviving on the Denver streets.

In Massachusetts, Chelsea officials wanted to try basic income to tackle food insecurity, Train said. Of the city’s 40,000 or so inhabitants, around 60% do not have reliable access to affordable or nutritional food. And importing more than 100,000 pounds of groceries each week and employing more than 20 people was not an efficient operation.

“This is an Amazon-scale operation for a community,” Train said.

The simpler solution was also more cost-effective: Chelsea gave between $ 200 and $ 400 a month to 274 low-income households between November and April, which was what was possible between using their own funds and making philanthropic donations, Train said.

About 85% of the people who received money spent it on groceries and basic necessities, Train said. Another 15% went to care, rent or “get their child a winter jacket”. And less than one percent went towards drugs or alcohol.

Prejudices and recommendations

Data from these basic income programs – whether for homeless or low-income residents – is invaluable to the growing movement, which, according to Tubbs in Stockton, includes 49 mayors and 15 pilot programs.

Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, poses ...

Nick Otto, AFP via Getty Images

Michael Tubbs, then Mayor of Stockton, poses for a photo in his Stockton, California office on February 7, 2020.

“These statistics work wonders in the face of the opposition, which is mostly focused on misinformation or age-old, often racist tropes,” Tubbs said, noting that the most common complaints are that people who get money are spending it on drugs or alcohol or it as use a way not to work.

“People disagree because of a misunderstanding of how the economy works, but that’s not based on data,” he said. “Most of the opposition was really just opposition to me.”

(In fact, Tubbs lost his re-election campaign late last year, telling the Los Angeles Times that one factor was a four-year misinformation campaign against him.)

One way to counteract these prejudices and misinformation is to have Donovan’s team and others in Denver overcommunicate, according to Tubbs.

“Maybe we should have done weekly updates.” Hey, we’re doing this pilot … “You think you’ve said it a million times, but there’s always someone new,” he said.

Train said that Chelsea’s program didn’t have that significant setback and that it may have been because it was designed as a means of tackling food insecurity.

Both Train and Tubbs also agreed that Donovan’s team should set realistic expectations.

“Guaranteed income isn’t a panacea for everything,” Tubbs said. “Money solves money problems” but not mental health or substance abuse problems.

Donovan said Thursday he raised about $ 1.5 million but needed another $ 5.5 million to offer attendees the full amounts. Should the fundraiser fall short, he said they will still offer everything they can.