Denver, CO

Denver Nonprofit Tackles Homelessness with $1000 Monthly Payments

Synthia Stark

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In Denver, Colorado, there is a homelessness problem afoot. As such, a nonprofit is trying to resolve this problem by providing $1000 direct monthly payments to the homeless to see if that resolves the situation.

The program in question is the Denver Basic Income Project. More and more cities are recognizing the need for a basic or universal income, since it injects and alleviates money into communities, allowing individuals a better sense of mind.

The Denver Basic Income Project defines basic income as follows:

“Basic Income is an unconditional, no strings attached approach to providing an income floor to our most vulnerable neighbors. Through direct cash payments, basic income shortens the path to stable housing, reduces income volatility, and provides an opportunity for stable employment.”

In return, those individuals eventually phase out of such programs and end up becoming independently successful. In the end, more money, time, and resources are saved, especially across the long term.

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The director of the Denver Basic Income Project is Jessica Sherwood. Jessica recognizes that a program like this will definitely change a lot of lives. Jessica had reportedly said:

“People across the country are recognizing the huge benefits of basic income. We know that this is going to make a huge change in people’s lives.”

Starting July 1, 2021, the Denver Basic Income Project and the University of Denver’s Center for Housing and Homeless Research will begin direct payments for those selected participants who are homeless. 

In total, there will be 260 people who will receive this direct payment of $1000 every month. Another 260 people will receive $6500 upfront and then $500 every other month. A final group of 300 people will receive $50 every month.

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The amazing thing about this program is that no one is going to be told how to spend that money. This means that there is no loss of dignity or guilt at having to spend certain amounts of money on some items over others. Plus, these individuals will have full agency to make their choices, especially since the money is limited, and you have to make the most of that money. It will be interesting to see how this experiment turns out.

This program comes off the heels of other universal basic income programs across the nation. For example, even former presidential candidate Andrew Yang had even made a push for such programs earlier on, but on a national scale. In theory, creating a national scale version of basic income is super ambitious but if it works, it could cover the total population, and each family would have the ability to spend the money on what they need. 

Even a little amount can drastically change a person’s life. 

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The program here in Denver will specifically target the homeless population of Denver only. Perhaps it can alleviate poverty and lift enough people up to secure a reliable and long-term job, a place to stay, family, and so much more. As mentioned earlier, a little money can go a long way, and $1000 is a lot of money. 

The director of DU’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research is Daniel Brisson. Daniel reportedly said:

“This is a test to some degree if that policy idea can work with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, people without a home. We need to innovate our way out of this [homelessness]. We need to rethink and re-conceptualize this.”
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A similar program happened in Stockton, California. It involved 125 people who were living around the poverty line and they were paid $500 a month. From that study, each individual was able to use that boost of money to alleviate their circumstances.

No one had abused the system. Each person was able to slowly scale their way into a stable job. For example, one individual was able to take time off from their two low-paying jobs to sit down to write their real estate exam. 

When they passed the exam, they graduated out of the universal income program, is now earning more money as a real estate professional. To think it was all because they used some of their money to take some time off and then pay to write that real estate exam.

To top it off, work-life balance is important. Some people are poor and are unable to spend time with their families. Spending less time with families means that anxiety is high and relationships are either poor or non-existent. Even a little money can reduce anxiety and give people the peace of mind to spend more time with loved ones.

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This project here in Denver will be the first of its kind and will be the first to focus exclusively on the homeless and unhoused. The mayor of Denver is Michael Hancock. Michael Handcock reportedly said that the project would be a great opportunity. According to the Denver Basic Income Project website, he specifically said:

“Homelessness, income inequality, a hollowed-out middle class, an alarming disparity in access to opportunity, and the challenges of mental health and poverty. It all stems from a lack of equity in our economic systems. The Denver Basic Income Project is an opportunity to explore how the philanthropic community and the private sector can augment public support for those living in poverty, particularly our unhoused neighbors, and extend that hand up to stability.”

As for now, this pilot project and study will investigate how the payments will impact the homeless for 2022. The people of Denver, Colorado deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, including those who are struggling to make ends meet. I mean, we’re all human — and being human means being compassionate towards others, especially during times of need.

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